The Senate began consideration of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer's Water Resources Development Act Tuesday, but thanks to the first two Republican amendments, the legislation won't merely address flood control, port and navigation improvements and storm protection.
If Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has his way, the bill could allow people to carry guns on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property. A similar effort three years ago lifted a gun ban in National Parks.
Coburn's other amendment would require federal agencies to report the firearms they own or that were lost or stolen -- with national security exceptions for the Pentagon and CIA, provided those agencies explain their reasoning to Congress.
After a contentious, four-month debate, the Senate last month failed to enact any new legislation aimed at curbing gun violence, and most observers didn't expect lawmakers to revisit the issue anytime soon. Amid other polarizing debates on immigration and the federal budget, the water resources bill, cosponsored by Boxer, a California Democrat, and David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, was expected to have relatively smooth sailing.
"I hope it doesn't get bogged down in extraneous amendments," Boxer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. Among other things, Boxer's bill would authorize projects such as the Natomas Levee Improvement Program.
Later, Boxer expressed frustration at Coburn's move but said the Senate would consider them. The bill moved unanimously out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which Boxer leads, though some environmental groups object to some of its provisions.
"We will deal with those amendments," she said.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in 2008. Doug Mills/The New York Times