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Republicans in Congress Set Value of All Public Lands and Buildings to $0 for Easy Sell Off at Taxpayers’ Expense

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Change Could Ultimately Benefit Energy Companies, Forever Destroying America’s Vast Wilderness

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a rules change this past week by a vote of 234 to 193, that would allow Congress the ability to essentially give away federal lands and buildings for free. The new rule, authored by GOP Rep. Robert Bishop of Utah, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, codifies that any legislation to dispose of federal land and natural resources would have a net sum zero cost to taxpayers. As the rule applies only to the House legislative rules, it is not subject to approval by the Senate or a presidential signature and is effective immediately.

All Democrats in the House voted against the measure, while only three Republicans joined them in opposing it, USA TODAY reports. The Wilderness Society said “this move paves the way for a wholesale giveaway of our American hunting, fishing and camping lands that belong to us all. Make no mistake, the giveaway is for the benefit of the drilling and mining interests that have a lock-grip on Congress and the rest of Washington.”

Since the House is required to account for any cost associated with any legislation it considers under Congressional Budget Office accounting rules and guidelines, legislation put forward now shall skip several steps in the normal legislative process, coming up for a vote without any discussion of the costs and benefits. This means that the House does not need to render an assessment or cost analysis of estimated financial losses resulting in legislation giving away public lands or buildings.

A Democratic Congressional source on Capitol Hill told NCRM Friday that this procedural rules shortcut will apply equally to all types of public land. 

“For example, the national parks like Yosemite – even federal buildings and facilities in Washington like the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover headquarters building, could all be given away without consideration of the cost to American taxpayers.”  

‘Plan to Give Away America’s Public Lands for Free Is Outrageous and Absurd’ Says Democratic Congressman

In an statement to NCRM via email Arizona Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona castigated House GOP leadership over the rules change. 

“The House Republican plan to give away America’s public lands for free is outrageous and absurd. This proposed rule change would make it easier to implement this plan by allowing the Congress to give away every single piece of property we own, for free, and pretend we have lost nothing of any value. Not only is this fiscally irresponsible, but it is also a flagrant attack on places and resources valued and beloved by the American people,” Grijalva said. 

Federal stewardship over public lands has long been a contentious issue with Congressional Republicans and particularly with Tea Party and House Freedom Caucus members from the Western states. But in the case of Rep. Bishop, he has waged an incessant campaign to divest federal ownership of Western lands, in particular urging President-elect Donald Trump to abolish national monuments designated by President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton. More than 270 million acres of American land and waters are potentially at risk—an area two and a half times the size of California.

This latest maneuver by Bishop with the House rules change was met with sharp criticism from conservation and watchdog groups. One group told NCRM that the impetus for Bishop’s zeal to unload federal property could be traced to his contributors.

According to the advocacy and activist group Oil Change International which tracks campaign contribution monies from fossil fuel corporations and the coal industry via the group’s Dirty Energy Money web project, since 1999 Congressman Bishop has accepted campaign funds and contributions of more than $452,610 dollars from oil, gas and coal interests. Figures collected by Oil Change International show that greater than ten percent of that figure has come from the coal-friendly National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which has led the fight against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Oil giants Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, and Tesoro are also listed among Bishop’s top campaign contributors.

Recent polling by the Denver, Colorado, based Center for Western Priorities showed that over seventy-five percent of registered voters in the states of Nevada, Colorado, and Montana believe public lands are an essential part of their respective state’s economies. Additionally, the Congressional watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, which is responsible for monitoring of the federal budget, found that leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands are one of the U.S. government’s largest sources of non-tax based revenues.

Congressional Republicans Accused of ‘Greasing the Skids’ and ‘Using Smoke and Mirrors to Hide the Cost of Stealing Away Our Public Lands’

In a statement released Tuesday after the House rules change vote by the Center for Western Priorities, which calls itself a “nonpartisan conservation and advocacy organization,” the organisation’s Executive Director Jennifer Rokala noted: 

“Less than one day in and Congressional Republicans are already greasing the skids to give away or sell off America’s public lands, forests, and wildlife refuges. What’s worse, politicians are using smoke and mirrors to hide the cost of stealing away our public lands, while ripping off American taxpayers in the process.”

She added, “President-elect Donald Trump and his nominee to run the Interior Department, Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, have disavowed attempts to seize our public lands. This is their first chance to show how serious they are by standing up to attacks on our parks and public lands in the U.S. House of Representatives.” 

During his presidential campaign, Trump was a vocal opponent of selling off federal lands. His Interior Secretary nominee, GOP Congressman Ryan Zinke, who serves as U.S. Representative for Montana’s at-large congressional district, has also publicly stated his opposition to efforts to dispose of public lands. During the GOP platform writing committee sessions last summer he resigned after the Republican Party platform included language that would support disposal of federal lands. He did however vote in favor of House Resolution 5 for the Rules Change on Tuesday. A spokesperson for Zinke told NCRM Friday that any statement regarding a change in his position regarding Bishop’s rule would be premature until further review and after his confirmation process as Interior Secretary.

Randi Spivak, public lands director with the Center for Biological Diversity remarked, “In Rob Bishop’s world, land owned by all Americans should be taken over by those who see them as nothing but a source of profit for drilling, mining and logging. Fortunately there are laws that protect places like national monuments—Rep. Bishop apparently doesn’t understand them or doesn’t think they should apply to his ideology.”

“If Rob Bishop has his way, where would it stop? Taking Yellowstone and Yosemite off the list of national parks?,” asked Spivak.

To contact your Congressman visit the House website or call the Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121. 
Rep. Bishop is on Facebook.

 

Brody Levesque is the Chief Political Correspondent for The New Civil Rights Movement.
You may contact Brody at [email protected] 

To comment on this article and other NCRM content, visit our Facebook page.

Image by USCapitol via Flickr 

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WEAKEST PRESIDENT EVER

‘He Had Nothing to Say’: Top Newspapers Deliver Scathing Articles Rebuking Trump’s Absence as Nation Protests

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Donald Trump, addressing reporters at the White House

The Washington Post and The New York Times served up hard-hitting news articles Sunday night rebuking President Donald Trump’s absence on the sixth day and night of protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

“Never in the 1,227 days of Trump’s presidency has the nation seemed to cry out for leadership as it did Sunday, yet Trump made no attempt to provide it.” The Washington Post‘s Philip Rucker reported, adding that “Trump stayed safely ensconced inside and had nothing to say, besides tweeting fuel on the fire.”

Rucker, the Post’s White House Bureau Chief, did not stop his clear recriminations there.

“Trump and some of his advisers calculated that he should not speak to the nation because he had nothing to say, according to a senior administration official. He had no tangible policy or action to announce, nor did he feel an urgent motivation to try to bring people together. So he stayed silent.”

The New York Times delivered another embarrassing assessment.

Related: Absolute Vacuum in Leadership’: Internet Shreds ‘Great Divider’ and ‘Coward’ Trump for Hiding After 75 Cities Protest

“Inside the White House, the mood was bristling with tension. Hundreds of protesters were gathering outside the gates, shouting curses at President Trump and in some cases throwing bricks and bottles. Nervous for his safety, Secret Service agents abruptly rushed the president to the underground bunker used in the past during terrorist attacks.”

Clearly an address to the nation is called for. Trump’s advisors apparently aren’t so sure.

“Trump spent Sunday out of sight, even as some of his campaign advisers were recommending that he deliver a nationally televised address before another night of possible violence.”

And The Times offered up another example of just how bad the President’s advisory team is.

“Some officials were urging that Mr. Trump hold events intended to show black voters enraged over the latest videotaped act of brutality that he heard their views,” The Times’ Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman wrote. “A group of advisers discussed plans for a series of ‘listening’ events. But others have counseled that the president should take a hard line, one that is not quite as aggressive as his tweets but that sends a message to business owners whose property has been destroyed that he is willing to defend them.”

And then, this:

“Some campaign advisers were pressing for a formal address to the nation as early as Sunday. But White House officials, recalling Mr. Trump’s error-filled Oval Office address in March about the spread of the coronavirus, cautioned that it was not necessary. Mr. Trump quizzed advisers throughout the day Sunday about whether he should give an Oval Office address.”

 

 

 

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COWARD IN CHIEF

‘Absolute Vacuum in Leadership’: Internet Shreds ‘Great Divider’ and ‘Coward’ Trump for Hiding After 75 Cities Protest

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President Donald Trump is under fire Sunday after the White House announced he will not be seen today despite five days and nights of protests in more than 75 cities across the country and governors in at least ten states activating the National Guard.

Possibly more than at any time during his three-and-a-half year old administration Trump is taking tremendous criticism for how he has managed the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and for his handling of the protests against the killing by police of George Floyd.

CNN broke the news:

Many blame Trump for fueling division and stoking the flames of division for political gain. Immediately they expressed anger, outrage, and disgust.

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HOW IS THIS AMERICA?

Watch: Young Black Couple Tasered and Pulled From Car by Mob of Atlanta Police for Reportedly Breaking Curfew

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In a video captured by CBS46, a young Black couple can be seen being pulled over by Atlanta law enforcement officers because they were reportedly out after curfew, only to be shot with Tasers, then pulled from the car and put in restraints after being yanked out of their car.

Atlanta joined a host of cities to institute a curfew as protests over the killing of George Floyd have swept across the country, leading to clashes with police.

In the video, the young woman is Tasered and pulled from the car while the man is Tasered after police shattered his driver-side window with a baton.

Watch below:

 

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