WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked a parade of campaign-season votes on gun rights on Wednesday that could have been a political thorn for Democrats seeking to retain control of the chamber in this fall’s elections.
The Nevada Democrat used Senate procedures to prevent votes on any amendments to a bipartisan measure expanding hunters’ access to public lands and renewing land conservation programs. The dozens of thwarted amendments included proposals by Republicans expanding gun owners’ rights and by Democrats toughening firearms restrictions.
The wide-ranging bill would open up more federal lands to sportsmen, let hunters return 41 polar bear carcasses to the U.S. that they shot in Canada and head off government curbs against lead bullets and fishing equipment. It would also renew a program letting the Bureau of Land Management sell some land and let federal agencies use the funds to buy other properties.
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The underlying legislation was seen as a political boon to Democratic senators from GOP-leaning states facing competitive re-election races this November. That included the chief Democratic sponsor, Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, plus Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Udall of Colorado.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is the bill’s leading Republican author.
Reid said he was blocking amendment votes because Republicans could not agree on which amendments they wanted to vote on. Republicans said Reid’s move was the latest in which he refused to give GOP senators a chance to reshape legislation.
Republicans are expected to derail the overall legislation in a vote this later week or next.