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Toxic Substances Bill Filibuster-Proof … When It Can Get to the Floor

Durbin (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Durbin (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Whenever the Senate gets around to debating an overhaul of a toxic substance law, there will be 60 votes. But getting to the point of floor consideration has been complicated by the lack of a reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  

Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., announced their intent to sign on as co-sponsors of the agreement Friday, bringing the total number to 60, according to Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, the lead Democrat on the bill spearheaded on the Republican side by Louisiana GOP Sen. David Vitter.  

“Today’s agreement reflects a bipartisan effort to give the EPA additional resources and authority to more effectively regulate chemicals and ensure timely compliance with new laws. Further delay in reforming this broken system risks exposing more families to toxic substances and leaves the EPA with little recourse against the aggressive chemical companies that have been exploiting the lack of oversight,” Durbin said in a statement.  

The approach to the toxic substances bill has been a point of disagreement among Democrats, dating to when Vitter first worked with former Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., despite concerns from the Environment and Public Works chairwoman at the time, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California.  

The bill is now known as the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.  

The agreement to secure the support of Durbin and Markey will result in a few changes, including an increase in Toxic Substances Control Act funding cap for fees from industry and four-year deadline for compliance with Environmental Protection Agency regulations, with the possibility for an EPA-driven extension.  

But the TSCA bill still has a fight for floor time. Senators from both parties have sought consent to call up a reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, including Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C.  

After a series of objections to a standalone bill on the Senate floor, Burr told reporters he would seek to attach a reauthorization of the lapsed fund to the long-stalled overhaul. An aide to Sen. Kelly Ayotte said the New Hampshire Republican would object to quick movement of TSCA without addressing the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  

Ayotte and New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen were among the lawmakers involved in unanimous consent requests seeking to past reauthorization legislation this week. Ayotte had joined a group of Republicans including Sen. Steve Daines of Montana.  

“We’re not going to let this conversation die. We’re going to continue to fight for the permanent reauthorization of LWCF. It is a tool for public to ensure that Montanans and Americans can have access to their public lands,” Daines said. “This is not about a land grab. This is a land solution.”  

Work was continuing to find the path forward for the toxic substances bill to advance through the Senate as of Friday, and the growing number of supporters sounded optimistic they would get issues about the floor schedule resolved in short order.

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