Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is preparing to introduce an omnibus public lands bill for passage during the lame-duck session of Congress, which begins on Monday and ends in early January, according to a story from yesterday in Greenwire, a publication of Environment & Energy Publishing. In this story, Bill Wicker, the spokesman for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (which is chaired by Bingaman), refused to divulge which bills would comprise the omnibus legislation, stating only that there will be “dozens and dozens of bills” included. However, Wicker and Bingaman’s Senate office spokeswoman, Jude McCartin, have indicated to VallesCaldera.com that the bill that would transfer administration of the Valles Caldera to the National Park Service would likely be one of the pieces of legislation that will be included in the omnibus bill that Bingaman is planning to attempt to shepherd through Congress.
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee has approved more than 60 bills this session that would create new national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and wildlife sanctuaries, according to Greenwire, including the Valles Caldera National Preserve Management Act, which passed the committee unanimously.
However, many pitfalls loom for Bingaman’s objective of passing this omnibus bill before the 112th Congress is sworn in early next year. From the Greenwire story:
Congress is grappling over a possible extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts and has to pass another budget extension if it wants to keep the federal government in business past Dec. 1. And Republicans — fresh off a shellacking of their Democratic rivals in last week’s midterm elections and preparing to run the House come January — aren’t in a hurry to do much more than that.
The package’s quickest road to passage is by unanimous consent, but there are several voices in the Senate that could keep that from happening, Wicker said.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) leads that list, having promised earlier this year to block any bill that did not offset all spending with cuts elsewhere. Coburn threatened to filibuster an omnibus in the final months of 2008, delaying it all the way into the current congressional session.
Wicker said that if the bills could not fit through the agenda, they could quickly be reintroduced and passed through the Senate next session, again as an omnibus.