1993 Scorecard Vote

Livestock Grazing on Public Lands
Senate Roll Call Vote 326
Issue: Lands/Forests

Environmental activists have tried for 10 years to change the rules by which the public range is used for cattle and sheep grazing. Overgrazing can destroy vegetation, cause erosion, and pollute watersheds. Unable to gain administrative changes during the Reagan or Bush administrations, the House of Representatives has repeatedly passed reform legislation only to be stymied by the Senate.

In August 1993, the Clinton administration released a draft proposal called "Rangeland Reform '94," which addressed grazing fees, riparian management and restoration, water rights, and range improvements. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt recognized that the grazing issue was about the condition of the land and not just user fees. Rangeland Reform '94 would fundamentally change the management of 170 million acres of public lands by emphasizing the creation of healthier ecosystems.

The administration could carry out reforms under existing law without action by Congress. Nevertheless, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) proposed an amendment to the 1994 Interior Department Appropriations bill to prohibit the administration from spending any funds on Rangeland Reform '94 for one year. The Domenici amendment, if it became law, would effectively halt the administration's new grazing policy. It passed the Senate 59-40 on September 14, 1993. NO is the pro-environmental vote.

After the Senate's action, the House voted to instruct its conferees to reject the Domenici amendment (see House vote No. 2). Then, during the House and Senate conference on the Interior Appropriations bill, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) negotiated a grazing compromise. Under the "Reid Compromise," a new law would direct the Department of Interior to develop several important grazing reforms that would: (a) establish new guidelines for range-land management; (b) allow permit holders to give grazing lands a rest rather than have to graze them continually to keep their permit; (c) eliminate "single-user" grazing advisory boards, and authorize the creation of councils with representation from several user groups; and (d) authorize the use of grazing fee receipts for rangeland restoration. The Reid Compromise provided a smaller increase in grazing permit fees than Interior's draft proposal.

After the conferees approved the proposal, Western senators led by Sen. Domenici attempted to derail the compromise with a filibuster, the stalling tactic in which a minority of senators threaten to engage in endless debate to prevent a bill they oppose from coming to a vote. Sixty votes are needed to cut off a Senate debate and bring such a bill to a vote, known as "invoking cloture." This time the pro-reform senators made three attempts to invoke cloture and defeat the Westerner's filibuster.

The first cloture vote on the Reid compromise is important because it identifies senators who will vote for the environment. The third cloture vote shows which additional senators were persuaded during this period to change their positions. Taken together, then, these votes reveal the environmental supporters, the converts, and the senators who relentlessly opposed the environmental position. After the third attempt at cloture, a new compromise was reached that waived all grazing reform provisions from the Interior spending bill, and Secretary Babbitt was able to proceed administratively.

The votes are on the first and third motions to invoke cloture on the grazing filibuster of the Interior Appropriations bill. The first vote to end debate failed 53-41 on October 21, 1993. The third and last vote to end debate failed 54-44 on October 28, 1993. YES is the pro-environmental vote on each.

is the
pro-environment position
Votes For: 53  
Votes Against: 41  
Not Voting: 6  
Pro-environment vote
Anti-environment vote
Missed vote
Not applicable
Senator Party State Vote