This was on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating a bill that added parts of the Molalla River in Oregon to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. That System consists of rivers or parts of rivers that have unique beauty, recreational or environmental value, historic or cultural significance or some other attribute deemed to be worth preserving. No component of the System can be dammed or impeded in any way.
As with most significant bills, the House had to approve a rule setting the terms for its debate before the bill could be formally considered. The rules for all bills are developed by the House Rules Committee. The rule for this bill did not permit any amendments to be offered on the House floor. During the congressional session, the Republican minority had been continually arguing against rules, such as this one, that limited or prohibited amendments to be offered to individual bills.
Rep. Cardoza (D-CA), was leading the support for the rule. He noted that the area around the river was home to some protected species, that it was used extensively for recreation and that the river had “served as both a trail for indigenous Molalla Indians and as a vital trade route between pioneers in Oregon.” Cardoza also pointed out that the Bureau of Land Management had determined that the segment of the river should be placed on the System and that designation “would cause few changes to the Bureau's current administration (of the area).'' He concluded his argument by saying that designations such as that in the bill “can ensure America's beauty and natural wonderment is preserved both now and for future generations.”
Rep. Bishop (UT) spoke against rule and the motion to bring it to a vote. The primary reason for his opposition was that the Rules Committee had rejected his effort to have the rule permit him to offer amendments to the bill. His amendments would have excluded 400 acres near the Molalla River from the System; this would have allowed the state of Oregon to do logging on those 400 acres.
Bishop noted that Oregon could have used the proceeds of the lumbering to help fund its public education system. He claimed that the bill, without his amendment, will take “this small amount of land . . . and put in statute the bad administrative decisions of the past which have taken it out of production so it no longer can produce the revenue that (is needed) . . . Today it's 400 acres. Tomorrow it may be 16,000 acres in another bill or 9.8 million acres in another bill.”
He first blamed the Democratic House leadership for unfairly telling the Rules Committee to prevent him from offering his amendment. Bishop then argued that “putting these 400 acres into the System says . . . there is something terribly wrong in the mindset of the Interior Department here in Washington. Are we going to try to help states fund their education system or not?” He added that the decision “simply says, our kids are props for political purposes around here, but we really don't care about trying to find a long-term funding solution.”
The rule setting the terms for debating the bill was approved by a vote of 244-176 along almost straight party lines. Two hundred and forty-three Democrats and one Republican voted “aye” One hundred and seventy-one Republicans and five Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to begin formally debating the legislation adding parts of the Molalla River in Oregon to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.