October 28, 2015

Udall: Senate Leadership Needed to Break Dysfunction, Allow Debate on Popular Bills to Reform Chemical Safety Law, Reauthorize LWCF

WASHINGTON - For the second time in two weeks, U.S. Senator Tom Udall and several others went to the Senate floor to urge Senate leaders to step in and break a stalemate holding up two very popular bills: Udall's bipartisan legislation to protect Americans from dangerous chemicals, and another bipartisan measure to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which expired on Sept. 30.

Both bills have enough support to pass the Senate easily, but they are caught in a procedural knot. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is blocking Udall's chemical safety bill because he wants a vote on the LWCF reauthorization at the same time. And because a small group of Republican senators object to reauthorizing the LWCF in its current form, neither bill can move.

Udall said he and other senators are frustrated, and he urged Senate leaders to break the stalemate: "We have two pieces of legislation, very popular pieces of legislation, with enough votes to get them on the floor, but we can't get them on the floor. We're in a situation where the leadership needs to step in and say both of these have huge bipartisan support, let's have a vote on them. We shouldn't have this dysfunction, this gridlock," Udall said in his remarks. "If people have an objection they can come down to the floor and voice it."

Udall's bill, introduced with Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), would reform the broken Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA). Because of a court decision and flaws in the law, TSCA has prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating any more than a handful of dangerous chemicals - even known carcinogens like asbestos. Udall's Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act would require the EPA to test and regulate new and existing chemicals, taking into consideration only the impact the chemicals might have on the people who are most at risk: infants, pregnant women, the elderly and chemical industry workers.

Udall told the story of Dominique Browning, who leads the group Moms Clean Air Force. Browning, a cancer survivor, supports Udall's chemical safety reform bill in part because of her own experience. Her doctor told her that her illness was most likely caused by environmental factors. Udall said he is pushing for TSCA reform to protect Americans - especially mothers and their children.

"This is about people like Dominique Browning, who want to see a cop on the beat to deal with dangerous chemicals," Udall said in his remarks.

Udall added that he wants to reauthorize the LWCF, which has enabled New Mexico to conserve thousands of acres of land. Parks and recreation opportunities supported by the LWCF create and sustain jobs and contribute millions of dollars to New Mexico's economy.

"People love their parks, they love the Land and Water Conservation Fund," Udall said. "This is something we shouldn't have let lapse."

Udall was joined on the floor by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). As Udall and other senators did last week, Merkley asked unanimous consent to take up and pass the LWCF reauthorization bill, S. 2165. But Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) objected. Udall then asked for unanimous consent to take up TSCA reform. Burr asked to amend it by adding the reauthorization of the LWCF. Lankford objected, and so Burr objected to beginning debate on TSCA reform. Both bills remain blocked.