House GOP Wants to Make It Nearly Impossible for Obama to Create New National Monuments

The House won’t let President Bartlet — er, President Obama — get away with this one.

The Grand Canyon's North Rim on July 22, 2013.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
Add to Briefcase
Sarah Mimms
March 26, 2014, 10:43 a.m.

The House will vote Wed­nes­day night to as­sert its au­thor­ity over the ex­ec­ut­ive branch, likely passing a bill that would re­vamp a 108-year-old law that would make it harder for Pres­id­ent Obama to de­clare na­tion­al monu­ments on fed­er­al lands.

The situ­ation re­minds us of an early epis­ode of West Wing (Sea­son 1, Epis­ode 8, “En­emies,” to be ex­act). Just as the Bart­let ad­min­is­tra­tion is on the cusp of passing a sweep­ing bank­ing-re­form bill, two sen­at­ors on the Bank­ing, Hous­ing, and Urb­an Af­fairs Com­mit­tee at­tach a rider that would al­low strip min­ing on fed­er­al lands that cov­er half the state of Montana. After ar­guing wheth­er to swal­low the min­ing pro­vi­sion or veto the en­tire bank­ing bill, Bart­let’s deputy chief of staff, Josh Ly­man, finds the per­fect solu­tion to pro­tect Big Sky: the An­tiquit­ies Act.

The 1906 law, used so clev­erly in West Wing, al­lows the pres­id­ent to uni­lat­er­ally de­clare large swaths of fed­er­al lands as na­tion­al monu­ments. Not long after the bill passed Con­gress, Theodore Roosevelt used the An­tiquit­ies Act to es­tab­lish the Grand Canyon Na­tion­al Monu­ment, which later be­came Grand Canyon Na­tion­al Park (seen in all its glory here). The le­gis­la­tion has since been used to cre­ate the Statue of Liberty Na­tion­al Monu­ment and dozens of oth­ers.

But the law is far too sweep­ing, House Re­pub­lic­ans ar­gue, be­cause it al­lows ad­min­is­tra­tions to pro­tect fed­er­al lands without con­sid­er­ing the wishes of loc­al cit­izens and gov­ern­ments, not to men­tion Con­gress.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion on West Wing is hardly the first to use the An­tiquit­ies Act to cir­cum­vent the wishes of Con­gress. The up­roar that fol­lowed Roosevelt’s es­tab­lish­ment of Jack­son Hole Na­tion­al Monu­ment in 1943 res­ul­ted in con­gres­sion­al up­roar and even­tu­ally a 1950 law pre­vent­ing the pres­id­ent from cre­at­ing any na­tion­al monu­ments in the state of Wyom­ing without ex­press ap­prov­al from Con­gress. There’s a sim­il­ar law on the books per­tain­ing to Alaska, en­acted after former Pres­id­ent Carter de­clared 17 monu­ments there total­ing 56 mil­lion acres on a single day in 1978.

Now the House is push­ing le­gis­la­tion that would sig­ni­fic­antly curb it. The En­sur­ing Pub­lic In­volve­ment in the Cre­ation of Na­tion­al Monu­ments Act, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bish­op, R-Utah, would re­quire fed­er­al agen­cies to do an en­vir­on­ment­al study and in­ter­view loc­al cit­izens who would be af­fected by any na­tion­al-monu­ment de­clar­a­tion be­fore the pres­id­ent can take ac­tion. It would also lim­it the pres­id­ent to cre­at­ing just one na­tion­al monu­ment per state in a four-year term and re­quire a study on the eco­nom­ic im­pact of turn­ing such land in­to a na­tion­al monu­ment.

Sig­ni­fic­antly, the law does provide an “emer­gency ex­emp­tion” that would al­low the pres­id­ent to pro­tect less than 5,000 acres of land in areas that face “an im­min­ent threat to an Amer­ic­an an­tiquity.” But the pro­vi­sion would only last for three years, un­less Con­gress ap­proves it for per­man­ent pro­tec­tion.

The bill’s op­pon­ents have dubbed it the “No More Parks Act,” not­ing that the qual­i­fic­a­tions for pro­tect­ing fed­er­al lands are so high as to be pro­hib­it­ive. Pro­ponents note that only Con­gress can cre­ate a na­tion­al park. This le­gis­la­tion deals with na­tion­al monu­ments, which are sim­il­ar, but have dif­fer­ent fund­ing and man­age­ment and lack the amen­it­ies of na­tion­al parks. They’re also, gen­er­ally, much smal­ler.

Obama is ex­pec­ted to veto the meas­ure if it reaches his desk, though the bill isn’t likely to pass the Sen­ate any­way.

Why House Re­pub­lic­ans are push­ing the bill now, more than 100 years after the law passed Con­gress, is in­ter­est­ing ques­tion. Many have poin­ted to Obama’s des­ig­na­tion earli­er this month of 1,665 acres of fed­er­al lands in North­ern Cali­for­nia as part of the Cali­for­nia Coastal Na­tion­al Monu­ment. But the House already agreed to that pro­pos­al on a un­an­im­ous vote. That bill was sponsored by Rep. Jared Huff­man, D-Cal­if., but had yet to gain any trac­tion in the Sen­ate, where the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fed­er­al nom­in­ees and aid to Ukraine have taken a pri­or­ity.

The is­sue is not en­tirely about safe­guard­ing fed­er­al lands. Rather, the House vote is about the le­gis­lat­ive branch as­sert­ing its power. Obama de­clared in his State of the Uni­on ad­dress this year that he would “use [his] au­thor­ity to pro­tect more of our pristine fed­er­al lands for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.” And as with many oth­er is­sues, House Re­pub­lic­ans are in­tent on pre­vent­ing the ex­ec­ut­ive branch from over­step­ping that au­thor­ity.

This post has been up­dated to cla­ri­fy the dis­tinc­tion between na­tion­al parks, which must be cre­ated by Con­gress, and na­tion­al monu­ments, which the pres­id­ent has the au­thor­ity to cre­ate.

What We're Following See More »
PRESIDENT CALLS MEDICAID FUNDS A “BAILOUT”
Puerto Rico Another Sticking Point in Budget Talks
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."

Source:
SHUT DOWN MISLEADING FALSEHOODS
Facebook To Cut Down On Govt-Sponsored Info Campaigns
7 hours ago
BREAKING

Facebook "outlined new measures it is taking to combat what it calls 'information operations' that go well beyond the phenomenon known as fake news" on Thursday. Facebook acknowledged that there are governments using its platform as a tool to launch propaganda information campaigns and "manipulate public opinion in other countries. ... Facebook suspended 30,000 accounts in France ahead of last Sunday’s first-round presidential election."

Source:
POTENTIAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN?
Democrats Threaten Spending Bill Over Obamacare
11 hours ago
BREAKING

Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.

Source:
IN 2014
Pentagon Warned Flynn Not To Accept Foreign Payments
13 hours ago
BREAKING
WOULD PUSH DEADLINE TO MAY 5
One-Week Spending Bill On The Table
13 hours ago
BREAKING

Members of Congress are eyeing a one-week spending bill which would keep the government open past the Friday night deadline, giving lawmakers an extra week to iron out a long-term deal to fund the government. Without any action, the government would run out of funding starting at midnight Saturday. “I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login