Louisiana senator pushes to include coastal funding in landmark conservation legislation

Washington

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) —Senate plans to vote this week on landmark legislation to restore and maintain the country’s national parks.

Though support for the Great American Outdoors Act is widely bipartisan, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LA, will be a no vote.

“In its current form, I oppose it,” Cassidy said. “Billions go to places where we vacation. Not a dime to where we live, work and help other people work.”

The legislation would use billions generated each year by oil leases and other income from government-owned land for conservation and upkeep of national parks, monuments and recreation areas. Supporters say it would create thousands of jobs, but Cassidy wants to use some of that money from offshore drilling fees at home in coastal states like his.

“We’ve got two weeks off this year. Let’s go to Montana. Never been there in my life, but I live in my house every day, and my community every day is threatened by flooding or high water events,” Cassidy said.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, said he opposes any changes to the bill.

“That would’ve signaled to the House of Representatives that, ‘Hey, the Senate went and put amendments on, why can’t we?,’ and before you know it, you got a bill that’s loaded up that can’t carry its own water,” Manchin said.

However, Cassidy argues if Congress doesn’t spend the millions up front to invest in coastal resiliency, it’ll end up spending billions in the aftermath of hurricanes and tropical storms.

“It’s an uphill battle,” he said. “I’ve got to convince those coastal senators that we should ask for a better deal.”

But with the support of President Trump, the most significant conservation legislation in nearly half a century could get Senate approval without Cassidy’s money for the coast as early as Tuesday.

A separate group of Republicans also opposes new federal land acquisitions in the bill.

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