What: All Issues : Environment : (H.R. 3726) On passage of a bill to establish the Castle Nugent estate in the Virgin Islands as a "national historic site" to be maintained by the National Park Service -- Motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill (2010 house Roll Call 10)
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(H.R. 3726) On passage of a bill to establish the Castle Nugent estate in the Virgin Islands as a "national historic site" to be maintained by the National Park Service -- Motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill
house Roll Call 10     Jan 20, 2010
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss
Qualifies as polarizing?
Yes
Is this vote crucial?
Yes

This was a vote on a bill to establish the Castle Nugent estate in St. Croix (in the Virgin Islands) as a "national historic site." Such sites are owned by the federal government and managed by the National Park Service. The bill was introduced by Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands). Castle Nugent is a historic plantation overseer’s estate that dates back to the 1700s. The site spans approximately 2,900 acres of land.

The House considered the bill under a procedure known as "suspension of the rules." The majority party in the House schedules bills for floor debate under this procedure if the leadership deems them to be non-controversial. Motions to suspend the rules limit time allowed for debate, and prohibit members from offering amendments. A two thirds vote is required to approve the motion and pass a bill, rather than the usual majority.

Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D- Guam) praised the bill:  "The lands to be included in this new historic site represent the largest undeveloped natural area remaining on the island, and there is very strong local support for protecting it as parkland for future generations….The National Park Service has studied the site and testified that it meets their criteria for addition to the system."

Rep. Christensen echoed those sentiments and expressed gratitude to the family that owned the land: "The family which owns the majority of this property has been incredibly patient--the pressure to sell their land to developers has been overwhelming--and yet they have continued to try to do what they feel, and I agree, is best for all concerned. There is no intent here to interfere with privately held property. The sole purpose of this bill is to protect and preserve the historic, cultural, and environmental assets and the opportunity for the people of the Virgin Islands as well as their fellow Americans to continue to enjoy the area and to preserve it for future generations."

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) argued the bill was fiscally irresponsible, and an assault on the rights of private property owners: "The National Park Service testified that the cost to acquire the private property to establish this park could be as much as $50 million, in addition to nearly $1 million a year to operate the park….Nearly every acre of the dry land that is to be acquired is privately owned. It's our understanding the majority of this land is owned by one family....We heard that it is their desire that this land not be developed, but be preserved in its current condition. It seems to me that they are in a perfect position to accomplish that goal as landowners. May I suggest that they also possess the power to determine the future of the property without any interference of Congress."

A motion to suspend the rules requires a two-thirds majority. A majority of members – 241 --voted in favor of the bill, while 173 voted against it. But because the bill did not receive a two-thirds majority vote, the measure failed. 241 Democrats voted "yea." All 169 Republicans present and 4 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House failed to pass legislation to establish the Castle Nugent estate in the Virgin Islands as a “national historic site.” As a result, the House failed to pass legislation to establish the Castle Nugent estate in the Virgin Islands as a “national historic site.” The House could still schedule the bill for consideration under normal rules.

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