Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took a swipe Thursday at Republicans who have called out the National Park Service for shutdown closures they claim are politically motivated. “It’s wrongheaded and unfair that there are some Republicans who are targeting the National Park Service,” Salazar said. “The approach that’s being taken by criticizing the public servants who are doing their jobs here is wrongheaded.”
Salazar, who held the position for four years under President Obama, spoke on a Center for American Progress press call along with Lynn Scarlett, deputy Interior secretary under President George W. Bush. Scarlett also offered support to Interior employees who have taken heat during the shutdown. “We need to honor the rules and give encouragement to the federal employees who need to abide by the rules,” she said.
Two GOP-led House committees are planning a hearing next week to question the National Park Service on how the shutdown has been conducted.
Salazar also rejected the piecemeal approach put forward by Republicans to fund some aspects of government, including the national parks. Congress should fund “not some of it — all of it,” Salazar said.
The shutdown is having an impact on energy development, Salazar said, especially on the Gulf Coast. Some drilling permits have slowed, and leasing auctions have been canceled. “The sooner Congress moves to fund the government, the better off it’s going to be for the energy future of the country.”
The former officials also lamented setbacks to hunters, vacationers, and tribal communities on federal land. “There’s a lot of frustration among the public that many of their favorite places are closed,” Scarlett said.
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"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
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."
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.