E&E Daily reports that several major pieces of oceans legislation are on the move in Congress this year, ranging from coral reef protections to the Law of the Sea ratification measure, are unlikely to make it into law before 2009, senior congressional staff members and oceans advocates say. Ocean advocates assembled for "Capitol Hill Oceans Week" last week predicted that a shortened, crowded calendar in an election year may leave little room to bring many of their oceans bills to the finish line.
House and Senate staffers predicted some bills could move in the fall but that most of this year's work would be an effort to set things up for the next Congress and the new administration. "It is going to be very difficult to move legislation for the rest of the year, as we get into an election cycle, it is very difficult," said Senate Commerce Committee staff member Kristen Sarri. "A lot of it is laying the groundwork for the next Congress."
Ocean advocates said they would press for final passage for some of the bills as part of the flurry of bills that Congress is likely to take up in its closing weeks after the August break. But they acknowledged it may be an uphill climb for the rest of the year. "It's a presidential election year and we've got a shortened, and let's face it, highly politically charged calendar, so we have to have modest expectations," said Christopher Mann, senior environment officer for the Pew Charitable Trusts. "The clock runs out pretty quick," said House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans staff member Dave Jansen.
Lawmakers introduced a tidal wave of oceans initiatives over the past two years, spurred in part by recommendations from the Joint Oceans Commission Initiative and reports from its predecessors, the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.