Land Grab Bill: Senators Check Principles at the Door

I have heard several Republican congressional leaders say that the party has learned its lesson from their disastrous losses in the past two elections. From now on, it’s back to being the party of limited government, fiscal discipline, lower taxes, and against pork barrel spending.

Sounds good, but Senate Republicans have blown their first opportunity to demonstrate that they mean what they say. The first bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) brought to a vote in the 111th Congress is the omnibus land grab bill that was blocked in the waning days of the last Congress by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). It was re-introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, as S. 22. It contains around 160 titles. Lots of new National Parks, Wilderness Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Trails, and National Heritage Areas. Plus making official a whole new designation of public land lockups for the Bureau of Land Management called Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. And withdrawing 1.2 million acres from the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming from future oil and gas production–an area with high gas potential.

The Senate voted on Thursday 73 to 21 to pass this monstrosity. Twenty-one Republicans voted against it, but nineteen Republicans (and all 54 Democrats who voted) voted for it. This first vote suggests that it’s going to be business as usual for many Republican Senators in the 111th Congress. Talk about shrinking government and reducing federal spending. Talk about increasing domestic energy production. Talk about stopping pork barrel spending. And then vote the other way.

The twenty-one Senators who voted against S. 22 were:
Brownback (Ks.), Burr (NC), Chambliss (Ga.), Coburn (Okla.), Cornyn (Tex.), DeMint (SC), Ensign (Nev.), Graham (NC), Grassley (Ia.), Hutchison (Tex.), Inhofe (Okla.), Isakson (Ga.), Johanns (Neb.), Kyl (Az.), McCain (Az.), McConnell (Ky.), Roberts (Ks.), Sessions (Ala.), Shelby (Ala.), Thune (SD), and Vitter (La.). They should be congratulated.

If you hear any of the nineteen Republicans who voted for the land grab bill talk about getting back to the basic conservative principles of less government, lower spending, and protecting property rights, have a good laugh.

S. 22 now moves to the House of Representatives.