Archive for category Jason Chaffetz
Today we finally got a look at the Bishop-Chaffetz Public Lands Initiative discussion draft, covering public lands issues in 7 eastern Utah counties. It was not worth the wait.
From the Center for Western Priorities:
After years of work, Congressman Rob Bishop released a draft of his long-awaited Public Lands Initiative (PLI) bill on Wednesday. Early reporting already shows Congressman Bishop trying to spin his bill as a balanced and collaborative success story, even before the public has an opportunity to review the legislation.
Don’t be fooled: The draft Public Lands Initiative bill is an extreme and deceptive attack on our nation’s public lands that does little for conservation. The legislation is another ideological vehicle for Congressman Bishop to express his disdain for national public lands, rather than a true attempt at addressing diverse stakeholder needs.
Rep. Bishop stated recently that “people will win and people will lose” in his bill. There’s no doubt that the winners Bishop picked are big oil and gas companies and Utah’s misguided public lands policy, while the losers include hikers, campers, sportsmen and women, Native American tribes, and the American people.
- The worst part of the bill is that the 40 areas Congressman Bishop calls “Wilderness” would not be designated wilderness as it’s been understood since the passage of the Wilderness Act over 50 years ago. “It is a designation in name only, and that alone makes the bill a nonstarter,” says Aaron Weiss, spokesman for the Center for Western Priorities.
- Unspoiled public lands that are currently set aside as BLM wilderness study areas would be given up forever and released for industrial uses.
- The bill also creates so-called “energy zones,” i.e. areas open to expedited oil, gas, and other mineral leasing and development.
- The bill seeks to open up disputed RS 2477 right-of-way claims to motorized travel.
- Bishop wants to prohibit any new national monument designations by presidential proclamation.
- Congressman Bishop just waged a vicious and ultimately unsuccessful battle against America’s most successful parks program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Fresh off his defeat, Bishop is now trying to gut LWCF within Utah by banning land management agencies from using LWCF funds to protect land inside new wilderness and conservation areas.
Public Lands Initiative discussion draft
Bishop Public Lands Proposal Unveiled, Already Sparking Criticism
Bishop public lands bill unveiled amid support, criticism
Rob Bishop’s “Public Lands Initiative” is an Insidious Attack on Our Public Lands
[O]ver the past several months there have been many significant changes made to the bill, turning it from a gesture of compromise to a divisive bill that includes Bundy-style public land giveaways, pseudo-wilderness protections, accelerated oil and gas development, and the marginalization of several original stakeholder groups.
While making another lame attempt to politicize Ebola, Utah’s own Rep. Jason Chaffetz accidentally brought up a serious issue. Acceding to Tea-GOP demands for an “Ebola czar” to address a nonexistent national crisis, President Obama appointed Ron Klain, a former chief-of-staff to Vice President Joe Biden. Did that make the right-wing happy? Not a chance.
Via Think Progress (emphasis added):
On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appeared on Fox News to complain that Klain had not yet agreed to testify before Congress, firing another criticism at the White House. “Why not have the surgeon general head this up?” Chaffetz said, adding, “at least you have someone who has a medical background who has been confirmed by the United States Senate, that’s where we should be actually I think going.”
But Obama can’t appoint the Surgeon General to lead the Ebola response because his nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is being opposed by the National Rifle Association and Republican senators (as well as a few Democrats) for supporting the expansion of background checks during gun purchases. In February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officially placed a hold on the nomination.
Chaffetz seemed unaware of this wrinkle during his Fox interview, and his office would not return repeated requests for comment…
We don’t have a Surgeon General because Dr. Murthy’s nomination has been blocked for the past year by Rep. Chaffetz’s party.
Today, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson debunked the false Faux News Channel claim that ISIS terrorists have been apprehended along the Mexican border (emphasis added):
[F]our foreigners who were apprehended after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border did not have ties to terrorism and were in fact members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), an organization that is fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)…
When can we expect Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to return to Faux News and admit he was wrong?
Note: Ryan’s proposal as released Tuesday calls for a tax cut that would reduce the top bracket from 39.6% to 25% (see update below).
The so-called “fiscal cliff” law passed by the Congress and signed by the President in January restored the top income tax rate to the Clinton-era levels of 39.6 percent, and increased the capital gains tax rate from 15 percent to 20 percent. It also made the Bush Tax Cuts For The Rich permanent for all other tax brackets. Reps. Paul Ryan and Jason Chaffetz voted against it. Now Rep. Chaffetz is touting the new Ryan budget proposal – which includes $600 billion in revenue from the measure they opposed in January.
Ryan Lizza put Chaffetz on the spot this morning on CNN, pointing out that “Republicans voted overwhelmingly against a deal that raised $600 billion in revenue, and now it sounds like they’re going to put out a budget that pockets that $600 billion…”
That’s not the only policy reversal in Ryan’s proposal:
The budget [proposal] will also likely include Medicare savings from the Affordable Care Act and “adjustments for an expected decline in war spending, a move that could reduce assumed expenditures by up to $600 billion over the next decade.” Ryan has consistently derided war savings as “phantom savings” and promised to restore the Medicare cuts during his vice presidential bid.
UPDATE: The Ryan proposal released on Tuesday includes a giant tax cut for the rich (14.6 percent for the top bracket), paid for by raising taxes on the middle class and cutting the social safety net.
Congressman Chaffetz, we get it. You don’t like the Obama administration, and you’re frustrated that all the investigations of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform have failed to turn up any wrongdoing. But you are not going to find a way to arrest the U.S. Attorney General for the first time in history. Especially because the Bush administration created this mess, and AG Holder shut it down as soon as he found out about it.
Appearing on a Friday afternoon Fox News broadcast, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) suggested that House Republicans may direct the House Sergeant at Arms to arrest Attorney General Eric Holder, provided they exhaust all other options for obtaining Justice Department documents that are now protected under executive privilege.
“If you actually look at the statute… [it] does say that you shall do this,” he explained. “And they’ll say, well, the precedent is that it hasn’t been done in the past. Again, we’ve got to get past this so-called precedent and do what the law says. The law says [the Sergeant at Arms] shall pursue it, so [Holder] has got a difficult situation on his hands.”
Interrupting him, Fox News host Megyn Kelly noted that “there is an option” before House Republicans that could see Holder arrested. “You gonna do that?” she asked.
“That would be fairly dramatic, but yes,” Chaffetz said. “Three options: going through the U.S. attorney, going into civil court or have the Sergeant at Arms take control of the situation — which I think some people are going to say we ought to do — but we’re going to exhaust the other ones first.”
While he is correct that a contempt citation could lead to an official being arrested, it has never happened before in U.S. history. Even during the Bush administration, when prominent Republicans were held in contempt, the House leadership refused to go that far.
If the country ever again should elect a Republican President, I truly hope Democrats will remember. During the Bush administration, it often seemed that the Dems didn’t want to take any action against high officials, the President or the VP — no matter how many crimes they committed in broad daylight. By contrast, when in opposition the GOP doesn’t hesitate to initiate impeachment or contempt of Congress proceedings without any evidence whatsoever!
I need to laugh about this so I can keep going. Jon Stewart chides the Tea-GOP for being sore winners:
You control less than half of one chamber of Congress, and yet have somehow convinced everybody they’ve got to slash trillions in spending because of the “deficit crisis,” when Republicans supported the largest contributing piece of it — the Bush tax cuts! TAKE THE WIN. What are you still angry about? Yes, government still exists. We still have traffic lights. We’re sorry. Not everybody defines freedom as the ability to not pay taxes. Government isn’t perfect, but some people wish it was better, not GONE. This whole process has been like, you’re in a bank, it’s a negotiation where you’ve got some hostages, and after getting everything you wanted, you’re still going, ‘Oh, and one last demand: I still get to kill the hostages, right?’ This is the part where they all come after you and they go, ‘You won the debate, what are you going to do now?’ And you go, ‘We’re going to Disney… Colonial Williamsburg.’
I can’t get over the horror of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) showing up at last on the House floor… and voting to screw the American middle class. We’ve done nothing to her. We were on her side!
UPDATE: Matt Taibbi: Debt Ceiling Deal: The Democrats Take a Dive
Now, Barack Obama has surrendered control of the budget to the Tea Party, whose operatives in congress used the same suicide-bomber tactic, threatening a catastrophic default unless the Democrats committed to a regime of steep spending cuts without any tax increases on the wealthy…
The Democrats aren’t failing to stand up to Republicans and failing to enact sensible reforms that benefit the middle class because they genuinely believe there’s political hay to be made moving to the right. They’re doing it because they do not represent any actual voters. I know I’ve said this before, but they are not a progressive political party, not even secretly, deep inside. They just play one on television.
For evidence, all you have to do is look at this latest fiasco.
UPDATE: The Age of Austerity is Here. Final Senate vote: Aye 74, Nay 26.
UPDATE: The White House says that President Obama has signed the bill into law.
A majority of voters want someone other than Senator Orrin Hatch to represent Utah in the Senate. From Talking Points Memo:
In a new Utah Policy poll, 54% of Utah voters said it was time to send someone else to Washington in Hatch’s place, while only 31% said Hatch should be reelected to the seat he has held for 34 years. The poll also had dire news for Hatch’s chances of surviving a primary challenge. In a hypothetical match-up with two-term Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Hatch only managed a tie at 42% apiece.
I’m never going to forgive the Republican Party for the Bush years, let’s get that straight. However, you can’t help but admire Rep. Jason Chaffetz for surviving the Washington shark tank. He even managed to keep smiling tonight while answering a series of tough questions from MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell.
Something I do not admire about O’Donnell and his fellow MSNBC host Chris Matthews: they have a tendency to go easy while interviewing political figures they perceive as powerful, then turn around and gratuitously browbeat anyone they think is small potatoes. In his two-year congressional career so far, Rep. Chaffetz hasn’t done anything to deserve the level of scorn O’Donnell heaped on him.
Comb Ridge in southeastern Utah, one of the areas re-inventoried by the BLM in 1999 and found to have wilderness characteristics.
Senator Orrin Hatch said it was “an insult to the people of Utah” and “proof – if any more was required – of this administration’s radical environmentalist agenda that threatens to devastate our Western way of life.”
Governor Gary Herbert called the timing of the announcement “suspect” and said it smacks of “political posturing.”
Rep. Rob Bishop opined, “This is little more than an early Christmas present to the far left extremists who oppose the multiple use of our nation’s public lands… [the Obama administration has] deliberately slapped western communities in the face.”
“This is an unprecedented usurpation of Congress’ power,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz. “The potential negative consequences of today’s actions will be far-reaching in the West, where we actually rely on the land for energy development, recreation, and food production (grazing and ranching). I look forward to working closely with my colleagues on the Natural Resources Committee and in the Congressional Western Caucus to demand an accounting.”
Whew. “Radical environmentalists.” “Political posturing.” “Far-left extremists.” “Far-reaching” consequences that “threaten to devastate our way of life.” What happened?
Basically nothing. After almost two years of insistent lobbying from conservationists, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has issued an order that effectively reversed an illegal decision by the Bush administration back in 2003. Secretarial Order 3310 (PDF) provides direction to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “regarding its obligation to maintain wilderness resource inventories on a regular and continuing basis…”
From the Q & A document:
Since the controversial out-of-court settlement between then-Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and the state of Utah and other parties (Norton-Leavitt Settlement) on wilderness in 2003, the BLM has been without comprehensive national guidance on how to inventory and manage lands with wilderness characteristics that are not congressionally designated as “Wilderness” (with a capital “W”) as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System or are not Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) that are pending before Congress for possible inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.
There is a bit of history behind this. In 1995, during a hearing on the doomed Utah Public Lands Management Act (a Republican-sponsored BLM wilderness bill), former Rep. Jim Hansen challenged then-Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt to produce evidence that Utah had anywhere near five million acres of wilderness-eligible BLM land, as conservation groups claimed. At the time, there were only 3.2 million acres of BLM wilderness study areas resulting from a flawed and biased 15-year congressionally-mandated wilderness review that concluded in 1991, during the George H. W. Bush administration.
Secretary Babbitt then ordered a BLM wilderness re-inventory in Utah, focusing on the 3.1 million acres eliminated at an early stage of the original review process, the 1980 Intensive Inventory. He could do this because the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) (PDF), the same law that provided for the wilderness review, also gave the Secretary of the Interior the authority to set aside public lands for protection through the BLM planning process.
Of course, the right-wing Republicans immediately freaked out, and the State of Utah went to court. In 1996, a district court judge issued an injunction to to stop the re-inventory of wilderness. Two years later, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Department of the Interior, affirming the Secretary’s authority under FLMPA.
The re-inventory concluded in 1999, and identified an additional 2.6 million acres as having wilderness characteristics according to the Wilderness Act (PDF).
Here’s a little bit of math: 3.2 + 2.6 = 5.8. Yes, it turns out that what conservationists had been saying all along was right. Utah had more than five million acres of BLM land eligible for designation as wilderness. In addition to the 3.2 million acres of wilderness study areas, the BLM now had another 2.6 million acres of inventory units that Secretary Babbitt ordered to be protected.
In April 2003, Interior Secretary Gale Norton made an out-of-court settlement with Utah Governor Mike Leavitt that rescinded former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt’s order protecting potential wilderness areas inventoried in the 1999 BLM re-inventory in exchange for dropping the lawsuit that had been filed in 1996. Conservation groups termed this the “No More Wilderness” policy. More legal wrangling ensued. Not to mention an unprecedented frenzy of oil and gas leasing, some of it in places that had been off-limits under Babbitt.
With Secretary Salazar’s order, we’re back at square one, with the BLM once again adhering to the policy established by Congress in FLPMA 34 years ago. It’s… wait for it… A GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER OF PUBLIC LANDS!
UPDATE: Salt Lake Tribune editorial: More wilderness?: Salazar’s small step forward
Source: The New York Times/Afghan NGO Safety Office
President Obama said today that the Afghanistan war is difficult, but “we are on track to achieve our goals” and can begin the process of withdrawing U.S. troops in July — unless that light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be an oncoming train (he didn’t say the last part).
The war in Afghanistan is in its 10th year. It’s already the longest war in U.S. history, and the Obama administration wants to commit American troops for another four years at least. There are currently about 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, plus 40,000 or so from NATO and other allies. Bear in mind that every soldier we send halfway around the world costs $1 million per year to keep deployed. Plus, we have tens of thousands of contractors and civilian personnel stationed in Afghanistan.
The main result of escalating the war is that insurgent activity has increased significantly in the past year. As American and NATO forces surged, the Taliban responded with a surge of their own. The International Committee of the Red Cross reports that the Afghanistan security situation has deteriorated, there are more civilian casualties than ever before, and the number of internally displaced people is higher by 25 percent. IED and suicide bomb attacks are way up.
The U.S. and NATO forces have gone on several offensives, tripling the number of air attacks and using rocket artillery and tanks against Taliban strongholds. Special operations forces have been conducting nonstop raids.
The Obama administration’s upbeat annual review of the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, claiming progress, has fooled nobody. This war is now as unpopular as Iraq, with 60 percent of Americans now saying it has not been worth fighting.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) says he’s still concerned about whether the United States is essentially propping up a corrupt government in Afghanistan. “This is the longest war in the history of the United States. I still see no end in sight. I think the President continues to fail to define success. I don’t think he’s ever done that. … My concern is we’re still trying to fight a politically correct war that will continue in perpetuity.”
U.S. taxpayers have financed Afghan security forces, paying $9.2 billion during 2010, and the Obama administration wants Congress to provide another $11.6 billion for them in the spending bill currently before Congress.
The CIA estimates Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is around $27 billion. Keeping soldiers and police fed, clothed, billeted, armed and equipped, realistically, will be a job for international donors for the foreseeable future.
UPDATE: At a White House antiwar protest sponsored by Veterans For Peace today, 135 people were arrested for civil disobedience. Among those arrested: Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, retired 27-year CIA analyst Ray McGovern, FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley, and Pulitzer-winning former New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges.
UPDATE: Our Afghan “ally” Hamid Karzai recently stated that he has three “main enemies” – the Taliban, the United States and the international community. And the Taliban are the least of his problems. “If I had to choose sides today, I’d choose the Taliban,” he fumed.
UPDATE: Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, one of our most accomplished diplomats for 48 years and the point man on Afghanistan-Pakistan, recently died when his heart gave out. His last words: “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.” Holbrooke was among those who advised President Obama to de-escalate. “Our presence is the corrupting force,” Holbrooke is quoted as saying.
Congressional candidate Morgan Philpot speaking at “Take Back Utah” rally
Maybe “Sagebrush Rebellion II” is losing momentum. At 1:00 pm, I counted no more than 300 people at the second “Take Back Utah” rally today at the State Capitol. The Salt Lake Tribune said there were 5,200 participants in an earlier ATV parade up State Street, but nearly all of them were gone by the time the politicians showed up to speak.
The complaint seemed to be how terribly unfair it is that Utah is blessed with millions of acres of uninhabitable but breathtakingly beautiful public lands. Governor Gary Herbert was the keynote speaker, complaining that there aren’t enough places to ride ATVs in Utah. Rep. Rob Bishop alleged that the Obama administration is plotting to proclaim more national monuments. A video from Rep. Jason Chaffetz seconded that suspicion. Congressional candidate Morgan Philpot also spoke briefly.
Lobbyist Don Peay told us of his preference to get rid of wild wolves in the West, before they eat all the game animals that hunters want to shoot (that’s his theory, anyway).
There were more speakers, but they all offered variations on the same theme: the federal government should not protect land but give it away — to state governments, to ranchers, to the mining industry, to the petroleum industry, to the timber industry, and to irresponsible off-roaders. That’s taking Utah back, all right — to the 19th Century.
Salt Lake Tribune: Thousands of off-road enthusiasts ride to the Capitol
Deseret News: 5,000 rally to ‘Take Back’ Utah’s public lands
KSL-TV: Thousands of outdoor enthusiasts set out to ‘Take Back Utah’