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House passes Mount Hood bill

Blumenauer and Walden prod Senate to adopt the measure

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Monday to pass the Mount Hood Stewardship Legacy Act, and its Oregon sponsors urged the Senate to do the same immediately.

U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, and Greg Walden, R-Hood River, gave a summary of their bill - which would designate more than 77,000 acres of land around Mount Hood as wilderness and institute a number of stewardship measures - and received a quick approval from the House membership.

The bill was passed using a congressional provision known as Suspension of the Rules, which allows a maximum 40-minute debate on a piece of legislation, prohibits amendments and requires a 2/3 majority for passage.

Madeleine Bordallo - the Democratic delegate from Guam - threw her support to the bill.

'This is one of the most important days in the modern history of Mount Hood,' Blumenauer said before the vote. He urged his colleagues in the Senate to act quickly.

'I hope our friends in the other body will seize the day,' Blumenauer said. 'If they choose to act this week, the President can sign it before Labor Day.'

With as little as six weeks left in the current Congress, the wilderness bill faces the possibility of dying at the end of the year. If the Senate doesn't put forward and approve a similar or reconciled bill before the end of the year, both legislative bodies would have to reintroduce the Act to the new Congress at the beginning of the year.

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, and Gordon Smith, a Republican, have indicated that they will not adopt the Blumenauer-Walden bill for the Senate, but instead are working on their own bill. The senators have repeatedly said they will not set a timeline for presenting their legislative package.

Despite the potential delay, Blumenauer staffer Kathie Eastman says the congressmen are confident that if they had to reintroduce the bill in January, it would easily pass again. But right now, 'the House side is ready to go,' she said.