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The Modern Fish Act isn't sexy enough

I didn’t know good legislation doesn’t get passed because it’s “not sexy.” But I can thank Matt McCarthy, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Sciences, for convincing me we must keep the pressure on to ensure a vote takes place on H.R. 200, which includes the Modern Fish Act.

Floor action in the House on H.R. 200 has been pushed back to an undetermined date after the Fourth of July, reflecting that in Congress nothing ever seems assured. But there is still time to take action and tell your members of Congress to support this critical legislation. In the meantime, enjoy some interesting discoveries that McCarthy shared recently, writing in the Tampa Bay Times.

In 2017, the U.S. Senate passed the Save Our Seas Act, a bill that would help clean up waterways after natural disasters such as hurricanes dump tons of trash into them. “Since then,” McCarthy wrote, “it has stalled in the House for reasons you won’t believe.”

He went on to describe how the SOS Act was introduced by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and supported by his party and so many Democrats that it passed without a single objection. The SOS Act does the following:

  • reauthorizes NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, which helps prevent trash from entering our waterways
  • funds NOAA and the Coast Guard to respond to debris “events” caused by natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and landslides that sweep trash into the water
  • encourage international cooperation to help other countries prevent trash from reaching our waters

“As you can imagine,” McCarthy wrote, “no one has had a problem with this bill. And that’s the first problem with this bill.

“The first week of June I traveled with colleagues to Washington to meet Democratic and Republican members of both the House and Senate to encourage them to pass the bill. Not one of them took issue with it,” he continued. “So, when we asked why it hadn’t been brought to a House vote in more than a year, we were shocked to find out from some of these folks that the House has stalled the bill because it is ‘not sexy enough.’ In other words, it’s so non-controversial that our leaders don’t care enough about it to even bring it to a vote.

“Settle in, it gets worse,” McCarthy said.

Undeterred, the group pressed on to a meeting with a staffer of U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Co., who is chairman of one of two subcommittees in which the SOS Act has resided since 2017. Lamborn decides which bills from his subcommittee die silently.

“Not being from Colorado,” McCarthy said, “my group and I were pleased to have his office kindly accept our meeting request. Fifteen minutes later, we left his office, defeated. (To be clear, we were rebuffed after 10 minutes, but the remainder was spent dragging our slack jaws off his newly dented floor.)”

As the group discovered, the staffer knew the SOS Act and was aware that his boss held the key to its success. And while he admitted several times he had no problem with the bill, he also had no intention of bringing it to a vote. “When asked why,” McCarthy said, “he responded with a reason that hasn’t rung true since my fourth-grade playground: The Senate isn’t passing his bills, so he won’t pass theirs.”

Still, McCarthy said he remains hopeful. That’s because the common message is that this widely supported bill would surely fly through Congress if only the public cared enough to make it sexy.

How?

“Call your House and Senate representatives, as well as Rep. Lamborn’s office, to demand they do their job and vote to Save Our Seas,” McCarthy urged.

Obviously, the same holds true for the Modern Fish Act (H.R. 200).

Here’s a link to take action. 

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