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Did McConnell hand vulnerable Republicans an election year gift with land legislation?

Great American Outdoors Act is on verge of becoming law
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Posted at 5:41 PM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 17:41:51-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Great American Outdoors Act is considered a landmark piece of legislation, impacting public lands and the outdoor recreation across the country.

The bill is on its way to becoming law after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed for a vote to end debate on the legislation earlier this week.

WHAT THE BILL DOES

The Great American Outdoors Act is a public lands and water protection bill.

If you go on a hike or camp in the wilderness, there is a good chance you may be doing it on federally owned land.

Colorado has around 8 million acres of public lands, Arizona has 12 million. Montana has over 30 million acres. Florida has millions of acres as well.

The proposed piece of legislation permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund and helps with a maintenance backlog.

It is estimated that around $900 million will be available annually across the country to keep these areas of nature accessible.

“It is a historic piece of legislation with bipartisan support,” Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) said Tuesday in Washington.

“This legislation will help create over 100,000 jobs,” Gardner said – commenting on how many mountain communities were hit hard by the pandemic.

WHY PASS IT NOW?

The legislation is hardly a new idea. For years, Gardner, along with other senators like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has promised to pass similar legislation for constituents. However, they were met with resistance by some Republicans, including McConnell, who controls what bills are brought up for a vote.

Some consider this a gift from McConnell to Gardner, as well as Montana Senator Steve Daines, who are both up for reelection this year.

Both Senators, who are considered vulnerable, plan to campaign off passing the legislation. Other vulnerable senators, including Martha McSally of Arizona, will likely as well, since she is a cosponsor.

McSally, Gardner, and Daines are crucial to the Republican goal of keeping the Senate majority.

Our Washington Correspondent Joe St. George asked McConnell about the timing of the bill Tuesday.

“Did you hand them an election year gift by allowing this to go forward five months before Election Day?” St. George asked McConnell.

“Well what we had was a unique opportunity to actually make a law,” McConnell said.

“Yeah it is in proximity to the election, but nobody said you should quit doing things just because there is an election – we have one every two years,” McConnell said.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation when it makes it to his desk.