2016 Scorecard Vote
Representative Jason Smith (R-MO) offered an amendment to H.R. 5538, the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, which would prohibit funds from being used to pay legal fees for settlements in Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, or Endangered Species Act cases. Congress long ago recognized that the government needs citizens to be partners in enforcing America’s laws, including environmental protection laws, and this principle is enshrined in numerous federal laws that provide reasonable fee recovery for successful plaintiffs. This amendment would alter this principle by prohibiting payment of citizens’ legal fees when parties avoid costly litigation by agreeing to a settlement. Failing to pay citizens’ legal fees would make it harder for all but the wealthiest Americans and corporations to hold violators of America’s environmental laws accountable through legal channels. On July 13, the House approved the Smith amendment by a vote of 226-202. (House roll call vote 459). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The House passed H.R. 5538 on July 14, but the Senate took no action on this legislation.