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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The protest over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline turned violent overnight as the police and National Guard sought to remove the protesters, surrounding them with assault vehicles and officers in riot gear. The law enforcement officers used pepper spray and fired bean bags for more than six hours. In response, the protesters "lit debris on fire and threw Molotov cocktails in retreat." One woman pulled out a gun and fired at officers, narrowly missing before being arrested. The protesters claim the pipeline would be constructed on land belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
The House has scheduled leadership votes for Nov. 15, the day after members return from their election recess. "Since mid-September, members of the House Freedom Caucus have weighed whether they should ask leadership to push back the elections so they can see how House Speaker Paul Ryan performs at the end of the year," but leaders don't seem inclined to grant their request.
Gross domestic product "expanded at a 2.9% annual clip from July through September. That’s a marked improvement from the first half of the year when the U.S. grew just barely over 1%." The robust numbers make it more likely that the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates at its next meeting.
"A federal jury on Thursday found Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and five co-defendants not guilty of conspiring to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs through intimidation, threat or force during the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The Bundy brothers and occupiers Jeff Banta and David Fry also were found not guilty of having guns in a federal facility." In a strange "coda" to the decision, Bundy's attorney Marcus Mumford was tackled and tasered by marshals in the courtroom as he argued that Bundy should be free to go.
Hillary Clinton is eyeing Vice President Joe Biden to be her secretary of state, and her campaign is trying to figure out the best way to broach the idea with Biden. Biden has a lifetime of foreign policy experience, serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; he can also put eight years as vice president on his foreign policy resume. Biden has previously stated that he would not work in a Clinton administration, so it might be a tough sell for the Clinton camp.