The death of a protected lion in Zimbabwe named Cecil could give a big boost to an anti-poaching bill that the House was already working on weeks ago.

Cecil was killed this week by Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota who paid a group $50,000 to hunt down a lion. Palmer says he had no idea Cecil was tagged and under observation by scientists, and said he "deeply regrets" his actions.

Palmer has said he's not a poacher and that he tried to ensure everything he did in Africa was legal. Nonetheless, his high-profile hunt could be enough to make an existing anti-poaching bill a higher priority when the House returns in September.

In late June, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the Global Anti-Poaching Act, a bill aimed at enforcing anti-poaching laws against people who violate those laws, and boosting U.S. aid for wildlife conservation efforts overseas.

The legislation from Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., was already popular. It has both Republicans and Democrats as cosponsors, and it was easily passed by the committee in a voice vote back in June.

"Wildlife poaching and trafficking threaten elephants, rhinoceros, and tigers greatly, but also have devastating impact on a number of other species, including sharks, great apes, and turtles," the bill says in its "findings" sections.

One purpose of the bill is to stop poachers with links to terrorist groups from harvesting animals illegally and selling them to fund terrorist activities. "Because of poaching, some of the world's most majestic animals — forest elephants, elephants at large, rhinos — are being decimated, and the terrorists are the ones benefitting," Royce said in June.

But the outrage surrounding Cecil's death might give members of Congress another reason to support the bill.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., on Wednesday indicated that the appetite for some kind of action by Congress is already there. She said the U.S. Attorneys' Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should investigate whether any U.S. laws were broken by Palmer's actions.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday it would investigate the incident, and McCollum said she would push for some bill in Congress.

"I will also continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pursue laws that protect iconic, threatened and endangered animals around the world from barbaric 'sport hunting' at the hands of ultra-wealthy elites," she said.

Royce's bill could end up being the vehicle. The bill finds that poaching and illegal trade in threatened wildlife generates up to $10 billion a year in illegal economic activity.

It would impose new penalties for trafficking in wildlife by treating poaching violations as offenses under racketeering and money laundering laws.

"Violators of those laws could be subject to fines and forfeiture of property or assets, which are recorded as revenues in the federal budget," the Congressional Budget Office said in its score of the bill.

The bill would officially make it U.S. policy to support wildlife protection, and create a sector within federal law enforcement that deals with laws protecting wildlife.

The bill also makes an effort to boost U.S. support for wildlife conservation and the protection of animals overseas. It would require the State Department to designate major wildlife trafficking countries, and to withhold certain foreign aid to countries that are major sources of illegal wildlife.