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A big bipartisan wildlife bill could be headed to Biden's desk

A major piece of environmental legislation could pass the Senate and reach President Biden's desk before Labor Day, and it starts with the letter “R.”

No, it's not Biden's long-stalled reconciliation package, which is still the subject of intense negotiations between Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Rather, it's the Recovering America's Wildlife Act, an ambitious bill to conserve the nation's wildlife and habitat as the biodiversity crisis causes the extinction of animal and plant species at an unprecedented rate.

While the wildlife measure has gotten far less attention in Washington than the reconciliation bill, environmentalists say it would make a crucial investment in protecting vulnerable species before it's too late.

And unlike the party-line reconciliation package, which faces uniform opposition from Republicans, the wildlife bill has bipartisan backing in both chambers of Congress.

  • The House passed the $1.4 billion measure in June by a vote of 231 to 190, with 16 Republicans voting for it. The bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.).
  • On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the bill in April by a bipartisan vote of 15 to 5. It was introduced by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
  • In an interview with The Climate 202 on Tuesday, Heinrich said he remains “optimistic” about the measure's near-term prospects.

“It's clear that we have the votes to be able to pass this in this Congress,” he said, adding, “The bipartisan support we have bodes well for us seeing action sooner rather than later.”

In a statement, Blunt said that “there is strong bipartisan, bicameral support for the bill, and I am hopeful we’ll be able to get it to the president’s desk this Congress.”