Bipartisan sportsman bill dies in U.S. Senate, a.k.a. ‘Camp Gridlock’

A bipartisan bill that would have opened up more public lands for hunting and fishing got trapped in partisan muck on Thursday as Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lost Republican support for the bill by not allowing it to be amended, which has become a pattern for Reid.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act was sponsored by 26 Republicans and 20 Democrats and had the support of the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, the American Sportfishing Association, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation, and Trout Unlimited.

Because Reid refused to allow amendments, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the prime sponsors of the bill, voted to allow it be filibustered, which basically killed it. Ten Senate Democrats also vote for filibuster. Sen. Mark Begich joined Reid and other Democrats to cut off debate for the amendments and to bring it to the floor, knowing that it would be killed.

“Welcome to Camp Gridlock – where good legislation goes to die,” Robert Dillon, a Murkowski spokesperson said.

Shortly after he voted to cut off the amendments, Begich sent out a press release, saying that “While some other senators try to avoid ‘tough’ votes, I’ve made it clear that I am not afraid to take votes. We should be allowing amendments on anything related to the bill — in this case sport hunting and fishing. But once again some senators appear more interested in scoring political points than passing important policy.”

Controversial amendments that might not be related to the bill but that would require such “tough votes” were offered by both sides. Liberal Democrats offered amendments to restrict gun control. Republicans offered amendments to expand it, including an amendment to allow guns on Army Corp of Engineers land and to ease restrictions on gun ownership by veterans who are diagnosed with a mental illness.

As he often does, Reid blamed Republicans for killing the bill by offering the amendments.

Amendments can be politically perilous, particularly on ones dealing with hot-button issues like gun control. However, they’re also a part of the process—a 2003 energy bill, for instance, had more than 380 amendments. But it’s a process that Reid has decided to nearly completely cut off. He’s apparently decided that it’s better to protect vulnerable Democrats from those tough votes than to allow open debate.

But there are also risks associated with being too careful.

First, Begich is one of a number of freshman Democrats who hasn’t gotten a single amendment passed during his time in the Senate. There are other ways to get thing done, but it’s a talking point that has been pushed by Republicans and will likely be used against him in the upcoming race.

Secondly, it’s a red state, and as the race chugs along, and the complicated workings in D.C. are spotlighted, it’s doubtful that many in the state will continue to believe that the problems in D.C. rest on the shoulders of Republicans, who are in the minority in the Senate

Contact Amanda Coyne at


11 thoughts on “Bipartisan sportsman bill dies in U.S. Senate, a.k.a. ‘Camp Gridlock’

  1. Twig

    I laughed a few minutes ago when I read in the Anchorage Daily Idiotspatch the article penned by Nathan Herz on this topic. You must get a chuckle out of cub reporters, like Nathan, copying the stories you break. I got a chuckle out of how much Begich used Herz. Begich admitted that it was a political vote. Doesn’t Herz care about doing the right thing? Did it never cross the cub reporters’ mind to question our junior senator’s motives? Do they even have editors over there? Anyhow, reading Herz’s story, all the words of it, makes me appreciate your site even more. Keep up the outstanding work.

  2. Brian

    Nah riders, and amendments are the way to get things done.

    It’s how Alaska benefited by hurricane Sandy aid. We got what 150million dollars for that one amendment alone and no one was going to turn that pork down. After all, that money was used to help fishermen affected by a bad year had a lot to do with the damage to NJ.

    It’s how pizza was deemed a vegetable in regards to school lunches.

  3. Jim Bob

    I want more fully-armed mentally ill veterans toting semi-automatic weapons in our country. What could possibly go wrong? Man, Mark voting against THAT amendment sure would have hurt him in November.

  4. Jeff Landrum

    So a good bill with widespread support that was about to be weighted down with poison amendments was filibustered by the poisoners because they weren’t allowed to poison the bill.

    Amanda, shouldn’t you be attacking the people who refuse to do their jobs in DC rather than go after Senators who –like Mark– are trying to do what’s good for our state and country? I mean, more hunting and fishing is good, right?

  5. Lynn Willis

    Ah yes, while picturing Harry Reid in your mind, reflect on the warning from John Adams, 2nd President of the United States:
    “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

  6. Sleepless in Sitka

    Usually Begich is more politically astute than this. Either he’s getting cocky about his general election race or Harry Reid demanded his support. It is very troubling that a Senator from Nevada has enough influence to demand that Begich vote against what is good for his Alaska constituents.

  7. R. Jones

    Mark Begich’s support of Harry Reid’s agenda is a slap in the face to every Alaskan. In this case Trout Unlimited, NRA and Safari Club were all supporting this legislation. But, Sen. Begich supported Harry Reid and the bill died. As far as I’m concerned, Sen. “THE WORM” Begich has lost my vote forever. I am sick of his PAC, which is funded by Harry Reid, attacking Sullivan on bogus fronts. Trith be told, Begich wouldn’t know one end of a gun from the other.

  8. Garand Fellow

    Alaska very much needs a different party to control the US Senate. In this instance, out of 100 senators the bill was sponsored by 46 Republicans and Democrats yet Harry Reid won’t allow the legislation to come to a vote. Trout Unlimited and the NRA worked together on this. This is terrible government! Alaskans would not allow anything like this to persist in Juneau for longer than 2 or 3 days.

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