Congress voted to pass a budget bill that includes a record $38 billion in spending cuts today. Now it heads to the White House, where experts say there's another cut the president should be worried about ... to the Endangered Species Act.
A rider on the budget bill will lift federal protections for the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf. It's the first time Congress has voted to remove a species from the endangered list.
Is it a uniquely necessary end-run around a prickly judge who wouldn't lift protections for recovered population of gray wolves?
Was it a foot in the door to more political influence over endangered species protections?
And if the president endorses the vote, what will it mean for the future of the Endangered Species Act?
Two views via the AP:
The endangered act has long been reviled by conservatives who see it as a hindrance to economic development. Now, the administration's support for the wolf provision signals that protections for even the most imperiled animals, fish and plants are negotiable given enough political pressure, experts said. ...
"The president could have used some political capital to influence this and he didn't," said Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law from the Vermont Law School. "The message to the environmental community is, don't count on the administration to be there" for the protection of endangered species.
And from another corner:
J.B. Ruhl, an expert in the Endangered Species Act at Florida State University, warned against reading too much into the wolf provision, which was latched onto a must-pass bill needed to avert a government shutdown.
"It seems to me the planets had to be aligned just right to make this happen," Ruhl said. "There might be a wing of the Republican party that would love to see the Endangered Species Act reformed, but I don't think they are going to be able to ram that through anytime soon."