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,Â USA TODAYÂ 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.”
â€” Wilderness Society (@Wilderness) January 7, 2017
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.Â
â€œFor 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.â€ Â
‘Plan to Give Away Americaâ€™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.Â
â€œThe House Republican plan to give away Americaâ€™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,â€ Grijalva said.Â
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 riskâ€”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 groupÂ 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 stateâ€™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. governmentâ€™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 TuesdayÂ after the House rules change voteÂ by the Center for Western Priorities, which calls itself a “nonpartisan conservation and advocacy organization,”Â the organisation’s Executive Director Jennifer Rokala noted:Â
â€œLess than one day in and Congressional Republicans are already greasing the skids to give away or sell off Americaâ€™s public lands, forests, and wildlife refuges. Whatâ€™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.â€
She added,Â â€œPresident-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.â€Â
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 monumentsâ€”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.
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Image by USCapitol via FlickrÂ
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RNC Chair Asked Nominee for $500,000 in Possible Pay-to-Play Scheme for Ambassadorship: Report
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel appears to be enmeshed in an possible pay-to-play scheme, asking a nominee for $500,000 after his ambassadorship nomination ran into trouble.
When the confirmation for President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the Bahamas stalled in the Senate, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Rona McDaniel dashed off an email to the nominee, San Diego billionaire Doug Manchester.
“Would you consider putting together $500,000 worth of contributions from your family to ensure we hit our ambitious fundraising goal?” McDaniel wrote in an email, according to CBS News, which reports the email came “as his confirmation in the Senate hung in the balance.”
Manchester, who had donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund, replied quickly.
“As you know I am not supposed to do any, but my wife is sending a contribution for $100,000,” he wrote. “Assuming I get voted out of the [Foreign Relations Committee] on Wednesday to the floor we need you to have the majority leader bring it to a majority vote … Once confirmed, I our [sic] family will respond!”
CBS spoke with Manchester, telling him, “You know what this looks like.”
“Well — it looks like it to you. But it’s not the facts,” Manchester responded. “My wife gave out of separate funds and she in fact loves Donald Trump.”
Manchester told CBS it’s just “part of politics.”
“You give and you give and you give and you give some more and more and more,” he said.
He ultimately was forced to withdraw.
This is not the first ambassador nominee who has given huge sums to the RNC or to team Trump. Gordon Sondland, who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal, became Trump’s ambassador to the European Union despite having no experience for the role. He also gave Trump’s inauguration committee $1 million. The New Republic reports many of Trump’s ambassadors are high-dollar donors.
Among them, Kelly Knight Craft, who is now the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, “donated $1 million alongside her husband.”
No Way Pence Didn’t Know What Trump Was Up to in Ukraine After Aide’s Revelations: CNN Panel
A CNN panel discussion on testimony given by a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence said her revelations about what she knew about President Donald Trump’s Ukraine dealings can only mean Pence knew and is lying.
Speaking with New Day hosts John Berman and Alisyn Camerota, contributor Kaitlan Collins stated Jennifer Williams’ description of Trump’s Ukraine phone call was expected to set Trump off, which it did when the president raged at her on Sunday as a “Never Trumper.”
“We kind of saw this coming, that they anticipated the president could be frustrated by her testimony,” Collins explained. “Because in the weeks before, when she was going to testify behind closed doors, we saw them distancing themselves from her. Yes, she works in our office, but she’s the State Department employee detailed to our office.”
Collins added Williams, “was on the call with the president. She traveled with Pence when he went to Warsaw to meet with the Ukrainian president.”
“She’s not some low-level staffer,” she continued. “She’s also not an eager witness. No one even realized she was on the call until someone else on the call named her to house investigators, that’s why she was called to testify in the first place.”
Former White House official Joe Lockhart jumped int to say Pence had to know what William had heard during the call.
“I think the other thing about Jennifer Williams, and it’s not getting as much attention, is she does place Vice President Pence in an awkward position,” Lockhart suggested. “He either has to argue he doesn’t read his briefing book, doesn’t listen to his staff, or I was in on this. It’s one or the other. So far he’s escaped scrutiny here, but he was briefed on his way to Warsaw by her and apparently, it was in his briefing book”
Trump’s Alleged ‘Checkup’ at Walter Reed Was ‘Non-Routine and Scheduled Last Minute’: Report
President Donald Trump’s unexpected trip to Walter Reed medical center did not follow “routine” protocols for a presidential medical exam, CNN’s Jeremy Diamond reported on Sunday.
A source familiar with Trump’s visit to the hospital told Diamond that staff was not notified prior to the president’s visit.
President Donald Trump’s visit to Walter Reed on Saturday did not follow the protocol of a routine presidential medical exam, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Medical staff at Walter Reed did not get a staff-wide notice about a presidential visit to the medical center in Bethesda, Maryland, ahead of Trump’s arrival, according to that source.
During normal circumstances, medical center staff would have received instructions about a “VIP” visit ahead of time.
“That did not happen this time, indicating the visit was a non-routine visit and scheduled last minute,” Diamond reported.
A second source also told CNN that the trip to Walter Reed was “abnormal.”
The White House is on record insisting that the visit was part of the president’s annual “routine” physical exam.
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