WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate voted Thursday to move ahead with the 2015 defense policy bill containing a host of public-lands measures, bringing the expansion of Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Seattle within hours of final passage in Congress.
However, retiring Sen. Tom Coburn is vowing to run out the clock with additional 30 hours of debate allowed under Senate rules. If he does, the National Defense Authorization Act — which cleared the House last week — may not get final vote in the Senate until 5 p.m. Friday.
Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, objects to the inclusion of unrelated measures for national parks, wild and scenic rivers and others in the Pentagon bill. His colleagues voted 85-14 to invoke cloture, meaning only 30 more hours of debate can be held before a final vote on the legislation.
That filibuster-proof vote was enough for Sen. Patty Murray to declare the long-sought Alpine Lakes Wilderness expansion a done deal. Murray has repeatedly tried to get the measure passed in concert with Rep. Dave Reichert of Auburn, who first filed the bill in 2007.
“For everyone in Washington state who cherishes our incredible wild spaces, this is a truly historic day,” said Murray said in a news released. “This isn’t simply about protecting the natural treasures we love, it’s about passing them along to our children, our grandchildren, and generations of Washingtonians to come.”
With Obama’s signature, Alpine Lakes Wilderness will grow by another 22,000 acres, protecting it for posterity from development or logging. An attached provision also would designate the Pratt River and the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River as wild and scenic, prohibiting dams and other water projects.