River Bill Prompts A Partisan Flood
Courtney's Legislation Blocked By GOP
By David Lightman, Washington Bureau Chief
WASHINGTON - The proposal was simple, the kind Congress approves with barely audible voice votes every day: Give 25 miles of Connecticut's Eightmile River special federal status so it can get more money to protect water quality and different species.
But the bill to make that happen was defeated in the House on July 11, thanks to a fierce Republican effort aimed at hurting vulnerable rookie Rep. Joseph Courtney, D-2nd District, its chief sponsor. And its prospects in the Senate, should it get that far, are uncertain. The Republicans didn't want Courtney to take credit for passing a major bill because it could help his re-election chances.
Many Republicans, including House GOP leaders, said the Eightmile River plan would allow the federal government to easily seize private property - even though the legislation says otherwise. Still, Republicans - led by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., chairman of the House Republican congressional campaign - were concerned and launched a campaign to discredit the bill.
"Fuzzy language included in this bill may leave the door open for the federal government to use eminent domain to seize private property in this new designation," Cole told colleagues in a House floor speech.
Others joined the fray. House Minority Whip Roy Blunt's office sent a memo to members warning them that the bill "goes so far as to pass judgment on local zoning regulations and requires the National Park Service to pressure zoning officials."
The Property Rights Alliance, a private Washington-based group, warned "private property will cease to exist" if the bill passed, and Americans for Tax Reform told members the bill would allow the government to try to "steal land from private citizens and forever prevent its use."
But none of that was true. (...)
"This is an ideological crusade that says, `Don't confuse me with the facts or the law,'" Courtney said.
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