October 21, 2015

Udall: Senate Dysfunction Shouldn't Hold up Chemical Safety Reform, Funding for Conservation Program

On Senate floor, urges passage of both TSCA reform and reauthorization of LWCF ? but efforts are blocked

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall went to the Senate floor to attempt to bypass obstruction of both his bipartisan chemical safety reform legislation and reauthorization of the widely popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Both bills would pass by strong margins if they were able to receive a vote, but Udall's efforts were met by objections.

Udall urged Senate leaders to find an agreement and not let dysfunction among a small number of senators continue to hold up reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and a measure to extend the LWCF, which provides millions of dollars for outdoor recreation and conservation programs in New Mexico and across the country. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) are blocking an agreement to bring the chemical safety bill to the floor because they want a vote to extend LWCF. They are in a standoff with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who objects to reauthorizing LWCF in its current form.

Udall also wants to extend the LWCF, which has helped conserve thousands of acres of land in New Mexico and was instrumental in creating parks including Valle de Oro and Valles Caldera. But he believes unrelated items should not block passage of chemical safety reform.

"Children, pregnant women, the elderly, chemical workers and many others in New Mexico and communities throughout the country are at risk right now because our chemical safety law is broken. Dysfunction in the Senate is holding up their safety. Everyone from industry to environmentalists agrees that this law needs to be reformed, and we have a bill that 60 senators support. Even senators who were our staunchest opponents are now cosponsors. We have an opportunity to show the American people that Congress can work together to do important things, but instead, we're demonstrating exactly the opposite. This is the kind of obstruction that gives the Senate a bad name," Udall said after his speech. "We've come so far - I'm going to keep talking and working. I'm still optimistic that we can find a path forward, but we need leadership and cooperation."

Udall was joined on the floor by his partner on the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). The senators asked for unanimous consent to move the chemical safety bill to the floor, but Burr objected, seeking to include an LWCF amendment in the Udall-Vitter chemical safety bill. Lee then objected to that proposal, leading Burr to object to the original Udall request. Udall then asked to add the LWCF extension as an amendment to the cyber security bill currently on the floor - which was authored by Burr.

The following are Udall's remarks:
Mr. President, I thank my colleague Senator Vitter. I rise first to speak on the pending cyber security legislation and then I will be seeking unanimous consent to process another bill.

Protecting our national security and economic interests from cyberattack is a very important priority. I commend Senator Burr and Senator Feinstein for their hard work on their legislation. I know they have also gone through a lot to get floor time on their bill and are working to process amendments.

It is clear that they have made a serious effort. I respect the chairman and vice chairman-and their staffs-for their work. And my understanding is this will pass with a large bipartisan majority in the Senate. As Chairman Burr stated yesterday, the House has already acted on cyber security legislation. He is eager to start reconciling differences and getting a bill to the president's desk. That's what good legislators do.

As the Chairman knows, I have also been working for a number of years on a complicated legislative project. Working with Senator Vitter and Senator Inhofe-and many other Senators of both parties-we are very, very close to reform of the totally outdated Toxic Substances Control Act.

We all know that TSCA is broken. It fails to protect families. It fails to provide confidence in consumer products. We have a chance today to change that and to show that Congress can actually get things done.

I am pleased that Chairman Burr is a cosponsor of our legislation along with over half of the United States Senate. After years of work, we are now also in a position to seek unanimous passage of TSCA reform so that we can go to conference with the U.S. House of Representatives. It's been a long road with lots of productive debate and discussion and cooperation and compromise. This is a balanced bill; one that Republicans, Democrats, industry, and public health groups can all support moving forward.
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Not everyone loves our Senate product. But its staunchest opponents are now ready to allow for Senate passage. We can then reconcile our bill with the House-just as Senator Burr seeks to do on cybersecurity legislation. We have cleared this legislation on the Democratic side of the aisle with a short time agreement. My understanding is that there is nearly unanimous sign off on the Republican side as well. So with that, I would join with Senators Vitter and Inhofe in asking for unanimous consent.

I ask unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by the Majority Leader in consultation with the Democratic Leader the Senate proceed to the consideration of Calendar number 121, S.697.

Further that the only amendment in order be a substitute amendment to be offered by Senator Inhofe; that there be up to 2 hours of debate equally divided between the Leaders, or their designees, and that following the use or yielding back of that time, the Senate vote on adoption of the amendment, the bill be read a third time and the Senate vote on passage of the bill, as amended, if amended, with no intervening action or debate.

I ask unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by the Majority Leader in consultation with the Democratic Leader the Senate proceed to the consideration of Calendar number 121, S.697.

Further that the only amendment in order be a substitute amendment to be offered by Senator Inhofe; that there be up to 2 hours of debate equally divided between the Leaders, or their designees, and that following the use or yielding back of that time, the Senate vote on adoption of the amendment, the bill be read a third time and the Senate vote on passage of the bill, as amended, if amended, with no intervening action or debate.

[Objections made by Burr and Lee]

Again I respect Senator Burr, but I am very disappointed in that objection. I take a back seat to no one in supporting the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It is extremely popular in New Mexico and critical to enabling our outdoors economy. Senator Burr has been a strong leader on LWCF. He has brought much needed attention and passion to the issue of reauthorization, and I want to work with him.
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But the current strategy of holding TSCA hostage for LWCF is not the proper one. This is the sort of thing that gives the United States Senate a bad reputation for dysfunction, and I do not see how it will lead to any progress on LWCF. I have not objected to Senator Burr's efforts to pass reauthorization in the Senate. In fact, I have praised his efforts. I share his frustration that a small minority of Republicans has blocked his efforts. But now instead of one good bill being blocked we have two, and without this objection, TSCA would pass today almost unanimously after years of hard work. So instead of holding TSCA hostage, why not consider LWCF on Senator Burr's legislation?

[Objections]

I ask unanimous consent the pending amendment be set aside so that I may call up amendment #2717, an amendment to extend the Land and Water Conservation fund.

[Objections]

Mr. President, I can't tell you how disappointed I am. The senator from North Carolina objects to making an unrelated amendment to his bill but he insists on one to ours. It seems we are at a standoff and a standstill with bipartisan TSCA reform that's ready to move through the Seante. We've done incredible work on this piece of legislation. Senator Inhofe, Senator Vitter, 60 cosponsors. We're ready to roll with this with very short timeline, and yet we have this objection.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorization also has a strong majority of the Senate in favor -- 53 Senators signed a letter led by Senator Burr recently. And I am confident there are over 60 supporters. I am also confident that we will reauthorize and continue to fund LWCF. As the ranking Democrat on the Interior Subcommittee, that is an extremely high priority for me. But for some reason TSCA is being held up by demands for a vote on unrelated LWCF legislation. I do not see how that helps matters. This kind of dysfunctional situation is what gives the Senate a bad name. And again I respect Senator Burr. I know that he does not seek a dysfunctional Senate. On the contrary I have watched him do his best to get the Senate to function on his important cyber security legislation.

But this situation calls out for leadership. Cooperation. Not ultimatums. I will keep doing what I can to continue the conversation and bring people together on a path forward. TSCA reform is ready. We will be back. One way or another we will pass the United State Senate with this bill. We will resolve our differences with the House. And this critical reform will go to the President's desk. With that I yield the floor.