WITT: Digging into an ad lauding bill pushed by McConnell

Recently an ad was placed in some regional newspapers thanking Sen. Mitch McConnell for helping to pass the Great American Outdoors Act (subtitled the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund).

The ad was paid for by the the National Shooting Sports Foundation (subtitled, according to the ad, The Firearm Industry Trade Association).

The bill, S.3442, appears to be a good act.  It is not among the longest acts passed by the senate, only 16 pages, and its main goal appears to allocate a continuing fund, suggested as $ 1.9 billion per year, to the national parks and to conservation efforts.

A further examination into the ad is appropriate.

First, was the ad, specifically targeting the “leadership” of McConnell, placed in any newspapers other than in Kentucky?  If not, it would seem that the ad is an attempt to influence voters here, rather than to really compliment him.

Second, the act was introduced in March of this year, just in time to rush the vote through the Senate and to provide grist to the senator’s primary campaign here. 

Why could this bill not have been introduced one or two years earlier, since the “deferred maintenance” referred to in the bill has been going on much longer, primarily because of continued funding cuts to the national parks system by Congress?

The bill has yet to go to a vote in the House of Representatives, but since that body is controlled by Democrats, it seems highly likely it will be approved there since every Democrat Senator voted in favor of it except for two listed as not voting.

If it passes the House, it goes to the president for his signature, and he has been busy for his entire term trying to sell public lands so his interest doesn’t seem to lie in parks preservation.

It will certainly be interesting to follow this bill through the House and to see how the president responds to it. 

If he were to veto it, it might still become law if the needed majority of both the House and Senate override the veto. 

It will also be interesting, if he does indeed veto it, to see if the NSSF will place ads in national newspapers pointing out the president’s veto as readily as they lauded McConnell’s support.

The bill was co-sponsored by 59 Senators — 42 Democrats, 15 Republicans and two independents.  It passed the Senate on a 73-25 vote.  Every single vote of the 25 was a Republican, including Kentucky’s Rand Paul. 

Interestingly, of the 25 Republican votes cast against the act, only six are up for re-election in 2020, so the remaining 19 have very little to fear about voting against this non-partisan bill since the electorate has a very short memory.

McConnell voted in favor of the bill.  Could his vote have been influenced by the fact he is facing re-election this year and the popularity of the bill might work in his favor?

It certainly seems odd this bill was so short-lived in the Senate since McConnell is so well known for his tendency to hold up legislation he deems unworthy of exploration.

There are 233 Democrats and 197 Republicans in the House of Representatives, so it seems likely, given the Senate vote, that the bill will pass the House. 

Under a presidential veto, the questions then becomes whether or not enough House Republicans will vote in favor of overriding the veto and whether the Senate will maintain the original vote majority which is sufficient to override.

Regardless, the McConnell ad is simply self-serving at a very opportune time.

As an aside, another McConnell ad laments the removal of historic statues and points out that a statue of Lenin is left standing.  True, but there are no Lenin statues in Kentucky, so why mention it?

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.