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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 Brody.Levesque@thenewcivilrightsmovement.com 

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

Image by USCapitol via Flickr 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Texas AG Ken Paxton Sues Biden Admin Over LGBTQ Policies He Falsely Claims Put ‘Women and Children at Risk’

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Teas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, running for re-election, on Monday sued the Biden administration in litigation falsely attacking LGBTQ people.

Paxton  filed a lawsuit in a federal court seen as a friendly pipeline to the Supreme Court, over LGBTQ-related Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  (EEOC) guidance, and even used the litigation to prop up a far right wing conspiracy theorist, who is also running for re-election. EEOC Commissioner Charlotte Burrows and Attorney General Merrick Garland are named as defendants.

The EEOC “guidance misstates the law, increasing the scope of liability for the State in its capacity as an employer,” Paxton claims in the lawsuit, as Bloomberg Law reports.

But as Courthouse News’ David Lee reports, the Paxton lawsuit also relies on old, false, and bigoted tropes about transgender people, saying allowing them to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity, “puts many women and children at risk.”

A June 2020 landmark Supreme Court found that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination is sex discrimination. The Biden Equal Employment Opportunity Commission used that ruling to form policy that mandates workplace guidance, including on who can use which restrooms.

Curiously, and for no discernible reason, Paxton’s lawsuit also promotes the Texas Dept. of Agriculture (TDA), which is headed by conspiracy theorist Sid Miller.

“TDA has both unisex single-occupancy bathrooms and bathrooms that are designated by sex. It interprets ‘sex’ as referring to biological sex rather than gender identity,” the lawsuit says. “If any employee wanted to use the bathrooms designated for the opposite sex, TDA would reject such a request.”

Paxton has a long and ugly history of attacking transgender people.

Newsweek adds that Paxton’s lawsuit “says that the TDA interprets sex to mean biological sex, rather than gender identity. The complaint says, ‘If any employee dressed as a member of the opposite sex, TDA would consider such conduct to be a violation of its standards.'”

It also says the TDA would reject requests for “any employee wanted to use the bathrooms designated for the opposite sex” or any employee who “wanted TDA to require other employees to use pronouns based on gender identity.”

 

 

 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Watch: Marjorie Taylor Greene Threatens ‘God Will No Longer Provide Protection Over America’

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U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) served up an unholy threat against America, warning that if Congress passes a bill protecting a woman’s right to abortion God will remove his “protection” from America.

Greene is not a theologian, biblical scholar, or other learned expert in religious studies. Abortion in the United States is already legal, but the legislation would protect that right and battle states actively seeking to change the law.

She called the bill, “the most evil and disgusting thing that is going to happen” in this session of Congress. The legislation will be voted on today, and is expected to pass the House, but would need 60 votes currently to pass the Senate, and is expected to fail there.

The Republican Congresswoman from Georgia also falsely claimed the legislation “makes it a federal law to allow abortion up until the day of birth.”

The U.S. Supreme Court since 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision has made it the law of the land that abortions are legal but only up until around 24 weeks, not “until the day of birth.”

“This wall says, ‘In God We Trust.’ And if that is the case,” Greene declared, “then this Congress will reject this evil bill and protect the innocent unborn. If this nation becomes a nation where we have such a federal law that can kill a baby, up until the day of birth, the God will no longer provide protection in His grace over America.”

She began her speech by promoting her legislation to impeach President Joe Biden, and on the floor of the House of Representatives accused him of “treason.” After she gave her speech she was admonished.

Watch:

 

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AMERICAN IDIOT

‘Let Me Explain to You Again Peter How Our Process Works’: Psaki, Growing Tired, Forced to School Doocy Again

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Since January White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has patiently informed Fox News’s Peter Doocy of facts in a wide variety of issues, deftly taking his uninformed questions, knowing it is likely the only way the Biden administration’s words will be broadcast to far right wing viewers.

But Psaki appears to be growing tired of Doocy’s attempt to twist facts to meet his agenda.

On Monday, Doocy once again tried to conflate the administration’s efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic with undocumented migrants entering the country illegally – forcing Psaki to once again school the 34-year old Fox News personality.

“What’s going on at the border? Is somebody asking the foreign nationals who are walking in Del Rio, Texas and setting up camps on this side of the border for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test?” he asked, despite his network’s daily on-air opposition to so-called “vaccine passports” and even the vaccine in general despite having a corporate policy mandating proof of vaccination for employees or daily testing.

“Well, first of all I can re-address for you or re-talk you through what steps we take,” Psaki offered before Doocy interrupted her.

“Compared to the policy for people who fly into the country. So, if somebody walks, into the country, right across the river, does somebody ask to see their vaccination card?” Doocy in a staccato voice queered.

“Well, let me explain to you again, Peter how our process works,” Psaki, losing patience, replied. This is not the first time he has made this comparison. a

“As individuals, as individuals come across the border, and they are both assessed for whether they have any symptoms, if they have symptoms they are, the intention is for them to be quarantined. That is our process, they’re not intending to stay here for a lengthy period of time, I don’t think it’s the same thing. It’s not the same thing,” she said as Doocy tried to talk over her.

“These are individuals, as we’ve noted and as we’ve been discussed, we are expelling individuals based on Title 42, specifically because of COVID, because we want to prevent a scenario where large numbers of people are gathering, posing a threat to the community and also to the migrants themselves. So those are the policies that we put in place, in large part because, again, the CDC continues to recommend title 42 to be in place given we’re facing a global pandemic.”

 

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