Republicans are in a fuss following news that Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) was leaked a "secret memo" outlining a plan for the Interior Department to place 14 new land tracts on a list of federally controlled "national monuments." The memo outlines 14 areas spread across 9 western states (see memo below for full list of states), amounting to over 10-million acres of resource rich lands that Obama could, according to the Antiquities Act of 1906, take unilaterally.
Interior Department officials, including Interior Secretary Salazar, have since announced that there is no "hidden federal agenda," surrounding the matter. They say the so-called "secret memo" wasn't designed to be secret at all, but was rather a "very, very, very preliminary" brainstorming memo to formulate ideas. But Republicans aren't giving up on the opportunity to mount an offensive.
Last Thursday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) proposed an amendment attempting to block President Obama from naming any of the proposed 14 areas as national monuments. The measure was rejected by a vote of 58-38.
On Tuesday, Demint returned with an editorial penned for the Washington Times describing his outrage over the timing of this "wish list for the environmentalist left" during a period of such high unemployment.
"You'd think the Obama administration is busy enough controlling the banks, insurance companies and automakers, but thanks to whistleblowers at the Department of the Interior, we now learn they're planning to increase their control over energy-rich land in the West," DeMint wrote. The measure would have negative effects, DeMint continued, like "halting job- creating activities like ranching, forestry, mining and energy development. Worse, this land grab would dry up tax revenue that's essential for funding schools, firehouses and community centers."
"Apparently, Washington bureaucrats believe it's more important to preserve grass and rocks for birdwatchers and backpackers than to keep these local economies thriving," DeMint charged.
Senate Republicans continued Wednesday to scramble to use this for political gain. Sen. DeMint tweeted a link Wednesday that provided a full list of Senators that voted against his amendment, along with a specific attack on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
"Tonight was yet another reminder of how Harry Reid has failed to put the interests of Nevada first. This land-grab tactic is another attempt on the part of President Obama, with Harry Reid's acquiescence in the Senate, to appease left-wing environmental activists and stifle productive public land use in Nevada," Danny Tarkanian, one of Reid's GOP opponent, said.
Don't expect the GOP to give up on this issue. They now have a rare chance to orchestrate a three-pronged, talking-point attack that uses common Republican criticisms of liberal Administrations: the perceived trend of increasing governmental control, a liberal President favoring environmentalism over job creation, and the neglecting of domestic energy alternatives such as natural gas and oil. Perhaps the most tactically significant detail for the GOP is that these proposed areas are all in the Mountain West, a region full of independent voters, and one that Democrats had successfully made competitive again during 2008 election cycle. Ideally, Republicans may be looking to reenact the Sagebrush Rebellion of the late 1970s which helped the GOP win back the West and get Ronald Reagan elected to the White House.
A blogger at Firedoglake has a list of more actions by GOP legislators that are designed to prevent such a theoretical "land grab" from coming about.
See The Memo: