Sorry, Congress. On Seal Conservation, Obama Goes it Alone.

Elephant seals are seen on the Piedras Blancas' beach, near Carmel, California, 25 December 2006.
National Journal
Clare Foran
March 11, 2014, 10:39 a.m.

When Pres­id­ent Obama told Con­gress he was go­ing to use his “phone and pen” to push policy without law­makers’ per­mis­sion, seal and seabird con­ser­va­tion prob­ably didn’t top his agenda.

Nev­er­the­less, Obama on Tues­day uni­lat­er­ally ex­pan­ded a na­tion­al monu­ment in North­ern Cali­for­nia, adding new pro­tec­tions for thou­sands of acres of Pa­cific coast­line. The newly pro­tec­ted land, which is about 100 miles up the coast from San Fran­cisco, is part of the Point Arena pub­lic lands — a swath of coast­line that provides hab­it­at for a string of threatened creatures, in­clud­ing an en­dangered beaver spe­cies and the Cali­for­nia red-legged frog.

It’s also a mar­ine-mam­mal bon­anza, ac­cord­ing to the White House, which billed it as home to “har­bor seals, Steller sea lions, and an oc­ca­sion­al ele­phant seal.”

But though seal hab­it­at is hardly a hot top­ic in the end­less Belt­way battles, Obama’s monu­ment des­ig­na­tion nev­er­the­less found its way in­to the on­go­ing power struggle between the pres­id­ent and con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans.

To ex­pand the monu­ment, Obama used the An­tiquit­ies Act, a cen­tury-old stat­ute that al­lows the pres­id­ent to cre­ate na­tion­al monu­ments by use of ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion. Obama has now used that au­thor­ity to make 10 such des­ig­na­tions. Without it, cre­at­ing monu­ments would re­quire an act of Con­gress.

Doc Hast­ings, the Wash­ing­ton Re­pub­lic­an atop the House Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee, ripped the pres­id­ent for go­ing it alone. The House passed le­gis­la­tion to ex­pand the Cali­for­nia monu­ment in Ju­ly, and Hast­ings said Obama should have waited for — or de­man­ded that — the Sen­ate take ac­tion on its own ver­sion of the bill.

“In­stead of us­ing im­per­i­al powers, the pres­id­ent should pick up the phone and call upon Sen­ate Demo­crats to take ac­tion,” Hast­ings said in a state­ment. “There is no in­her­ent danger to this area of com­pel­ling reas­on for the pres­id­ent to take uni­lat­er­al ac­tion now. The Sen­ate simply needs to do their job and pass the bill.”

More broadly, however, con­gres­sion­al im­passe has kept con­ser­va­tion des­ig­na­tions at a stand­still. The 112th Con­gress was the first in more than four dec­ades not to pass le­gis­la­tion des­ig­nat­ing a single new acre of wil­der­ness.

Demo­crats and en­vir­on­ment­al groups have tra­di­tion­ally pushed such des­ig­na­tions. Re­pub­lic­ans have been gen­er­ally wary of them, as they’ve been hes­it­ant to put re­stric­tions on en­ergy de­vel­op­ment and fre­quently de­man­ded such des­ig­na­tion have near-un­an­im­ous loc­al sup­port.

That grid­lock, however, may be crack­ing, if only slightly: The House last week voted to grant wil­der­ness pro­tec­tion for sev­er­al thou­sand acres of Michigan shoreline. The Sen­ate had already ap­proved the meas­ure, and — with a soon-to-be-is­sued sig­na­ture from Obama — it will mark the 113th Con­gress’s first suc­cess­ful land-con­ser­va­tion des­ig­na­tion.

What We're Following See More »
AFFECTS NOVEMBER ELECTIONS
North Carolina Voter ID Law Struck Down
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday overturned North Carolina's 2013 voter ID law, saying it was passed with “discriminatory intent." The decision sends the case back to the district judge who initially dismissed challenges to the law. "The ruling prohibits North Carolina from requiring photo identification from voters in future elections, including the November 2016 general election, restores a week of early voting and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and ensures that same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting will remain in effect."

Source:
NORTH DAKOTA TO ILLINOIS
Massive Oil Pipeline Approved for the Midwest
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

An oil pipeline almost as long as the much-debated Keystone XL has won final approval to transport crude from North Dakota to Illinois, traveling through South Dakota and Iowa along the way. "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the final blessing to the Dakota Access pipeline on Tuesday. Developers now have the last set of permits they need to build through the small portion of federal land the line crosses, which includes major waterways like the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers. The so-called Bakken pipeline goes through mostly state and private land."

Source:
DISAPPOINTING RESULTS
GDP Grew at 1.2% in Q2
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The U.S. economy grew at an anemic 1.2% in the second quarter, "well below the 2.6% growth economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast." Consumer spending was "robust," but it was offset by "cautious" business investment. "Since the recession ended seven years ago, the expansion has failed to achieve the breakout growth seen in past recoveries. "The average annual growth rate during the current business cycle, 2.1%, remains the weakest of any expansion since at least 1949."

Source:
‘DEMOCRATIC GENERATION’
Schumer: We’ll Take the Senate
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader in waiting, not only thinks his party will take the Senate this fall, but that it's on the cusp of an era of "electoral dominance." He told Politico: “We’re going to have a Democratic generation. [President Barack Obama] helped create it. But it’s just where America’s moving demographically, ideologically and in every way. We’ll have a mandate to get something done.”

Source:
TAPING IN NEW YORK TODAY
Biden to Guest on ‘Law and Order: SVU’
5 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"Vice President Joe Biden will appear in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that will mention the backlog of untested rape kits in many cities, as well as efforts to end violence against women—an issue close to Biden, who authored the Violence Against Women Act in 1994." He'll be in New York to tape the episode today.

Source:
×