Jim DeMint took to the Senate floor and the pages of the Washington Times earlier this week to expose a plan by the White House to seize over 10 million acres of land in nine Western states. Using an obscure clause in the Antiquities Act of 1906, the Department of the Interior under Ken Salazar would designate the land as “monuments” in order to block the use of the resources in those states. DeMint correctly asserts that this is not only a perversion of the intent of the Antiquities Act, but also a huge power grab by the federal government at the expense of the states:
Americans should be wary of any plans a president has to seize land from the states without their consent. Any new plans to take away states’ freedom to use land as they see fit must be stopped.
That’s why I sponsored an amendment to block Mr. Obama from declaring any of the 14 lands listed in the memo as “monuments.” Unfortunately, the Senate, led by Democrats, rejected it on Thursday evening by a vote of 58-38.
It was particularly disappointing that the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, voted against the amendment. The government owns more than 80 percent of the land in Nevada and the unemployment rate there is 12.8 percent. Surely it would help job prospects if more land were open for business.
This is a nationwide problem. The government currently owns 650 million acres, or 29 percent of the nation’s total land.
Federal bureaucrats shouldn’t be wasting time thinking up ways to acquire more, especially in the middle of a recession. Taking the nation’s resources offline will stifle job creation and dry up tax revenues.
If anything, the government should be selling land off, not locking more up. By voting against my amendment, the Democrats tacitly endorsed Mr. Obama’s secret plan to close off millions more acres to commerce.
It’s not the first time an administration has used this act to seize land from states. Jimmy Carter grabbed 50 million acres from Alaska over their loud objections, and Bill Clinton almost 6 million in 22 separate actions. These executive actions bypassed Congress altogether and made a mockery of state sovereignty. After all, if a state can’t keep the federal government from unilaterally declaring that their land no longer belongs to them, then states have no real power at all — and neither do the people, represented by Congress.
DeMint’s amendment got defeated on a party-line 58-38 vote.