Despite being in office for nearly a year, President Trump has been unable to staff his administration. In the early days, he was slow to make nominations–not surprisingly, given that he wasn’t surrounded by a cadre of former officials and government hangers-on. But that is no longer true. Now, the problem is that Senate Democrats are stalling Trump’s nominees. In one agency after another, they are carrying obstructionism to unprecedented lengths.
Take, for example, the Department of the Interior. Secretary Ryan Zinke has written a letter to Democrat Dick Durbin protesting the Democrats’ blockade of nominees to his department:
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says Senate Democrats are holding the department’s nominees “hostage” to a political agenda that includes opposition to his review of presidentially designated monuments.
In a sharply worded letter to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Zinke said it’s unfortunate that Democrats have placed holds on four Interior nominees, including the department’s top lawyer and budget chief.
The nominees “have nothing to do with this monument review, yet they have been forced to sit on the sidelines” for months, Zinke wrote Thursday. “As a former Navy SEAL, this is not the type of hostage situation I am accustomed to.”
But it is the hostage situation that is taking place all across the federal bureaucracy. The Democrats consider federal agencies to be their rightful property, and they have no intention of allowing a Republican president to exercise the constitutional powers of his office.
The specific issue here is the designation of “monuments” under federal law by the Obama administration, which the Trump administration wants to reduce in size.
President Donald Trump ordered the review this spring following complaints by congressional Republicans that previous presidents had misused a century-old law intended to protect federal lands, creating oversized monuments that hinder energy development, logging and other uses. Trump called some monument designations by his Democratic predecessors “massive land grabs.”
Zinke has recommended that Trump shrink four large monuments in the West, including the sprawling Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.
Let’s take, as an example, the Bears Ears “monument” in Utah. Barack Obama created the Bears Ears “monument” during the last days of his administration, on December 28, 2016, subsequent to President Trump’s election, by issuing an executive order under the Antiquities Act. Bears Ears comprises 1.35 million acres, or more than 2,000 square miles. That is one heck of a monument! It is nearly double the size of the State of Rhode Island. This map of southern Utah shows the Bears Ears “monument.”
The point of this alleged “monument” status is to block development. The Trump administration wants to undo the Obama administration’s orders, at least in part, by shrinking the size of the Western monuments to reasonable dimensions. That makes sense, and would be popular in the affected states. Elections have consequences, right?
Not anymore they don’t. The Democrats take the position that President Trump is not entitled to exercise the powers of his office. Here, as in many other instances, the Senate minority is holding nominees hostage to its demand that Obama administration policies not be changed. Barack Obama gets to be president forever, apparently.
This obstructionism is unprecedented in American history. The question is, what are Mitch McConnell and the other alleged leaders of the Republican majority going to do about it?
Like many others, I have just about come to the conclusion that Congressional Republicans are worthless. Time is running out for McConnell and his colleagues to show us that our votes and our financial support for Republicans haven’t been wasted. And please: don’t lecture us on the hallowed traditions of the Senate. Those traditions have been blasted to smithereens by the Democrats. This is a war, Senator McConnell, and if you are not interested in fighting it, then we need to find someone who is.