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
Add to Briefcase
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 »
LOFTY GOALS
White House Proposes New Tax Plan
14 hours ago
BREAKING

The White House on Wednesday laid out its plan for tax reform, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying it would be "the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country." The tax code would be broken down into just three tax brackets, with the highest personal income tax rate cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. The plan would also slash the tax rate on corporations and small businesses from 35 percent to 15 percent. "The White House plan is a set of principles with few details, but it’s designed to be the starting point of a major push to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive tax reform package this year," said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.

Source:
EMERGING BUDGET FRAMEWORK?
Dems Proposes Obamacare-for-Defense Deal
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"An emerging government funding deal would see Democrats agree to $15 billion in additional military funding in exchange for the GOP agreeing to fund healthcare subsidies, according to two congressional officials briefed on the talks. Facing a Friday deadline to pass a spending bill and avert a shutdown, Democrats are willing to go halfway to President Trump’s initial request of $30 billion in supplemental military funding."

Source:
WHITE HOUSE BLOCKING DOC REQUEST
Michael Flynn Remains A Russian-Sized Problem
1 days ago
BREAKING

The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former national security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents requested are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes is not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.

Source:
SENATE JUDICIARY HEARING
Sally Yates to Testify on May 8
1 days ago
THE LATEST
MESSAGE TO PUTIN
U.S. To Conduct Exercises In Estonia
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

The U.S. deployed "F-35 joint strike fighters" to Estonia on Tuesday. The "jets will stay in Estonia for several weeks and will be a part of training flights with U.S. and other NATO air forces." The move comes at a time of high tension between the U.S. and Estonia's neighbor, Russia. The two nations have been at odds over a number of issues recently, most of all being Vladimir Putin's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in light of Assad's chemical weapons attack on his own people in the midst of a civil war.

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