Last week, the U.S. Senate came closer to passing bipartisan legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) than ever before – but still failed to bring S. 697 to the floor. The bill, co-authored by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA), is still not scheduled for a floor vote, which will have to wait until after Congress returns from its Columbus Day recess.
On Friday, October 2, the “Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act” reached the filibuster-proof level of 60 cosponsors with the added support of Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). The new cosponsors came aboard as part of a deal promising changes to the bill, including increases to the annual funding cap for industry fees from $18 million to $25 million and measures to streamline the state preemption waiver process. At the same time, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who has been a vocal critic of the bill, reportedly agreed to allow S. 697 to advance. On Thursday, a diverse alliance of advocates – including the American Chemistry Council and Environmental Defense Fund – rallied outside the Capitol to support the legislation.
However, the news and optimism was quickly overshadowed by the announcement on Monday, October 5, from Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) that they would block consideration of the TSCA reform bill unless reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was added as an amendment.
The LWCF proposal was met with resistance by Senators Udall and James Inhofe (R-OK), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, who are trying to keep out amendments that are not “germane.” In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Democratic leaders pushed for separate floor time to address the reauthorization of LWCF, with the hope of clearing the way for TSCA reform.
Instead, the Senate adjourned today for a week-long recess without voting on the matter, meaning the Udall-Vitter bill could not reach the floor until October 19, at the earliest. Senators Udall and McConnell are said to be working on resolving the LWCF roadblock in order to secure the passage of S. 697, which is expected to pass easily once the procedural hurdles of scheduling a floor vote are surpassed.