The bill combines more than 150 separate pieces of legislation on wilderness areas and other federal lands, and was put together last Congress. It has been repeatedly held up by procedural stalling from several Republican senators, most notably Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn. The cloture motion, which passed 66-12, allows the Senate to proceed to debate.
Coburn was nonplussed. “I’m disappointed the Senate majority leader has refused to allow senators the opportunity to improve, amend or eliminate any of the questionable provisions in his omnibus lands bill,” said Coburn in a statement.
The Democratic leader, Harry Reid (Nev.), has said he would like this and another pieces of legislation passed before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the inauguration next week. “I’m gratified by the impressive bipartisan support my colleagues showed today in voting to advance this bill,” said bill sponsor Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) in a statement on Sunday. “I look forward to proceeding to the legislation next week.”
Wilderness advocates were pleased as well. “By voting to protect mountains and pristine wildlands, Congress is starting out on the right foot,” said Environment America Preservation Advocate Christy Goldfuss. “This Congress is serious about protecting the environment and the outstanding lands that Americans treasure.”