Havre Daily News: LWCF funding bill clears committee, heads to full Senate

Montana’s U.S. senators praised a Senate committee passing a bill to permanently and fully fund a program that funds conservation efforts throughout the country.

by Tim Leeds, Havre Daily News

Montana’s U.S. senators praised a Senate committee passing a bill to permanently and fully fund a program that funds conservation efforts throughout the country.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed a bill to provide permanent and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund on a 13-7 vote.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., a member of the committee who voted for the bill and – along with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. – one of the original co-sponsors of the bill introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., lauded the passage of that bill and a bill to address maintenance backlogs on national parks of which he is an original co-sponsor.

“What a great day in the United States Senate and what a great day in Montana,” Daines said in a press release. “With today’s vote we are one step closer to fully funding the Land Water Conservation Fund and addressing the growing maintenance backlog in our national parks.”

Tester also praised the committee passage of LWCF funding, and called on Senate leadership to bring it to the floor for a vote.

“Our LWCF mandatory full funding bill took a critical leap forward today and is now one step closer to the president’s desk,” Tester said in a release. “But for it to get there, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need to allow the full Senate to vote on it-if he did, it would pass overwhelmingly. In the weeks ahead I’ll continue my push to get this across the finish line, as well as continue working to address our deferred maintenance backlog, to preserve and protect the public lands that make our state the Last Best Place.”

Tester’s release said Senate leadership “has made it clear that most legislation will not be voted on in the Senate.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established by Congress in 1964 to use earnings from offshore gas and oil leasing for conservation without using any taxpayer dollars. But since it was passed, it has only been fully funded twice.

The members of Montana’s congressional delegation led a push earlier this year that permanently authorized the fund at $900 million a year, and now are pushing for permanent full funding.

The committee also approved 14-6 appointing Katharine MacGregor as deputy secretary of Department of the Interior, James P. Danly as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee on a 12-8 vote and voted 16-4 to appoint Dan Brouillette as secretary of Energy.

Those appointments now go to the full Senate for a vote.

Daines, who is running unnopposed at this point in the Republican primary in his bid for re-election, praised the candidates for the positions.

“Dan Brouillette, Kate MacGregor and James Danly are great picks by the Trump administration that value our Montana way of life and understand the importance of creating good-paying Montana jobs,” he said in the release. “As chair of the Senate Western Caucus, I’m glad to have helped advance these important nominations and I’m confident they will help promote President Trump’s pro-Montana, pro-jobs, and pro-energy agenda. I urge swift Senate floor action on these nominees.”