2003 Scorecard Vote
Because of the difficulty they face in enacting controversial legislation that weakens environmental laws, members of Congress often attempt to attach their anti-environment provisions to unrelated, must-pass spending bills. While the number of these anti-environmental "riders" had declined over the past several years, they sharply increased again during consideration in early 2003 of the fiscal year 2003 omnibus appropriations bill (H.J. Res 2), which included 11 of 13 bills that the 107th Congress had failed to pass before adjourning at the end of 2002.
During Senate consideration of the bill, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) inserted a rider to shield a court-ordered Forest Service review of possible wilderness designations in the Tongass National Forest from citizen appeal and judicial review. Other Senators added riders to authorize environmentally damaging Army Corps of Engineers projects and to exempt the renewal of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements. During House-Senate negotiations over the final conference report, several additional riders were added to the bill, including a measure to authorize unlimited private contracts for timber companies to log national forests. This "stewardship contracting" provision, a key element of the Bush administration's Healthy Forests initiative, would allow widespread logging under the guise of forest management. The conference report also failed to include a longstanding provision to prohibit the use of federal funds for oil pre-leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In addition, the report removed more than $200 million from the Conservation Trust Fund, which provides a dedicated stream of funding for chronically underfunded national parks, wildlife refuges, open space, and historic and cultural resources.
During House floor consideration of the omnibus conference report, Representative David Obey (D-WI) offered a motion to recommit the bill with instructions for the conferees to remove the Tongass and stewardship contracting riders and restore the prohibition on Arctic leasing. On February 13, 2003, the House rejected the Obey motion by a 193-226 vote (House roll call vote 31). YES is the pro-environment vote. The House and Senate then approved the 2003 omnibus appropriations conference report with the riders intact, and the bill was signed into law later that month.