Senate Clears Public Lands Bill, Again

Posted March 19, 2009 at 12:32pm

The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a massive package of public lands bills for the second time this year, in what Democratic leaders hope will be an anticlimactic end to legislation that tied the chamber in knots for months.

Following a series of votes on amendments by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla) — all of which were defeated by wide margins — the Senate approved the bill 77-20 . The Senate had agreed to the bill earlier this year in a 73-21 vote, but the House sent the measure back after Republicans balked at a lack of gun rights provisions.

For most of the 110th Congress, the public lands bill was the main battleground for a personal fight between Coburn and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Coburn was able to successfully rally his GOP colleagues to help him block the bill after Reid used procedural tactics to circumvent a deal he had previously cut to give Coburn a series of votes on amendments.

But since the start of the 111th session, Reid has largely softened his opposition to GOP amendments, and he and Coburn appear to have reached somewhat of a truce in their longstanding feud. Following the House’s rejection of the Senate’s first version, Reid agreed to make the changes needed to move the bill through the lower chamber. The Democratic leader also agreed to give Coburn votes on a set of amendments, which helped avoid a protracted filibuster fight in the Senate on the legislation.