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Murkowski: Open, Fair Amendment Process Essential in Considering Sportsmen’s Package

Republican Caucus Absolutely Prepared to Vote on Every Amendment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today called on Senate Democratic leaders to allow for an open and fair amendment process that permits all members to participate in shaping the Murkowski-Hagan Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.

(Click for video of Sen. Murkowski’s comments)

“We have to return to regular order. We have to have a fair and healthy debate on legislation, especially legislation that has not gone through the committee process,” Murkowski said. “A lot of hard work has gone into crafting this bipartisan package, but unfortunately that work is once again at risk of being cast aside because of political concerns.”

Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, made her comments this morning on the Senate floor.

“Sportsmen’s issues have historically been very bipartisan and non-political,” Murkowski said. “But unless we agree to an open amendment process – where we take votes instead of hiding from them – we are unlikely to make any further progress.”

Murkowski assembled the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act (S. 2363), with Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. The legislation, which has 44 cosponsors, aims to protect access to public lands for sportsmen and women. A 2003 Department of the Interior report to Congress found that there were access issues on 35 million acres of public land.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., used a procedural tactic to bring the legislation up on the floor that bypassed the regular committee process. Murkowski said the maneuver left her Senate colleagues without the traditional opportunity to offer amendments in committee – making the floor amendment process that much more important.

“It’s important to remember that this package has not gone through the traditional path of a committee process. I feel very strongly that all of our colleagues should have an opportunity to provide their perspectives and their insights before we take a final vote on this bill,” Murkowski said.

There have so far been 46 amendments filed to the bill. Majority Leader Reid appears to believe that relevant amendments are too difficult for Democrats to vote on, Murkowski said. She urged him to reconsider that position, but Reid was so eager to take down the bill, he tried to “fill the tree” – blocking amendments – even before a vote on the motion to proceed.

“I want to be clear this morning: the Republican conference is prepared to vote on all relevant amendments,” Murkowski said. “We should do our jobs as U.S. senators. We came here to represent our states and our country, but unfortunately, we are continually denied that ability here on the Senate floor.”

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