Unnamed senators block enviro bill - Lobbyist calls result 'a huge victory for grass-roots activists'

November 21, 2002
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Sarah Foster
© 2002 WorldNetDaily.com

A major environmental bill went down in defeat in the U.S. Senate Wednesday, as proponents failed to persuade certain of their colleagues to remove the "holds" they had placed on it to block its passage.

"It's a huge victory for grass-roots activists," exclaimed lobbyist Mike Hardiman, who represents the American Land Rights Association, the group that has spearheaded the opposition to S 990. "It was a genuine grassroots revolution spontaneous combustion from the bottom up."

As WorldNetDaily reported Monday, S 990 the American Wildlife Enhancement Bill a measure that had drawn the ire of many property-rights advocates, was approved by "unanimous consent" of the House of Representatives at 2:35 a.m. Friday morning, just minutes before adjourning for the year. The request was made by Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah, who is retiring at the end of this session. Only a handful of representatives were present.

S 990 which had been passed by the Senate Dec. 22 in much the same way, in the dead of night, just before adjournment, and by unanimous consent of the three or four members present was sent immediately to the Senate for final approval.

But the tactic didn't work this time.

Under the Senate's unanimous consent rules, if one member objects to a bill it must be removed from the consent calendar and cannot be considered until next year.

In response to concerns expressed by constituents in faxes and e-mails that flowed into Senate offices over the weekend, by Monday one anonymous senator had placed a hold on S 990. By Wednesday, two others had joined him, and their names, too, have not been made public.

Hardiman reports that Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., who introduced the bill in 2001, and cosponsor Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., "worked it and worked it, and tried to get the holds taken off, but guess what? Instead of giving in, the three senators held firm and were joined by three more."

S 990 is dead for the session.

"It's had a stake driven through it," says Hardiman, who is quick to point out that neither he nor ALRA carried the ball by themselves there were people on the Hill who helped behind the scenes.

"This is all part of the very ugly, dark-of-night, sausage-making process," Hardiman said. "It works both ways: Terrible things get done, but good things get done, too. And in this effort there were heroes and heroines who can never be publicly acknowledged or thanked."

Hardiman attributes S 990's defeat to the force of grass roots that bolstered the resolve of the opponents on the Hill. Several major organizations spoke out in opposition the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Water Resources Association (which is the Western irrigators) and their members responded.

So, too, did the rank-and-file property-rights advocates across the country. Some senate offices were so swamped by incoming messages that they turned off their fax machines and put their telephones on answering machines during business hours. The e-mails were even more overwhelming.

For Hardiman, there were two reasons for the popular rallying that led to S 990's defeat.

In his words: "Number one, on its merits it was a terrible, terrible piece of legislation. It called for a dramatic expansion of the Endangered Species Act, combined with hundreds of millions of dollars for land acquisition.

"Number two, the hidden, dark-of-night manner by which the environmentalists tried to get it through."

But a victory of this kind would not have been possible without the Internet. It was through the Internet that the American Land Rights Association was able to communicate information to its members, who picked up the ball and ran with it. The members contacted others, who contacted others, in ever-widening circles.

"Due to the modern technology of the Internet, the facts of the issue and the merits of the bill were laid out to grass-roots activists tens of thousands of them across the country," Hardiman explained. "Backing up the descriptions of the bill's shortcomings was the underhanded manner in which was being sneaked through the legislative process. The underhanded way in which the bill was moving served to confirm how bad the non-merits of the bill really were."

For Hardiman, this shows that if there's a legitimate case to be made for or against something, the system works.

"The people can speak out, they can pass good bills and they can defeat bad ones. They can take on the big, powerful, big-money environmental interests," he said. "They can defeat them and take them to the cleaners."


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