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Policy: Environment & Energy

Obama: 'I'm here to pick up a little bit of the slack' from Congress

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,White House,Joel Gehrke,Barack Obama,John Boehner,Energy and Environment,National Parks,Conservation

President Obama trumpeted his designation of a national monument in southern New Mexico as the kind of unilateral action he promised in the 2014 State of the Union speech, adding that he intends to take more actions as Congress refuses to pass his preferred conservation laws.

"Congress is sitting on dozens of bills that would help protect our precious land and wildlife," Obama said while touting the designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. "And by one count, there's a set of 10 land conservation bills that have been introduced a combined 52 times over the past 30 years, and they are still stuck. So I'm here to pick up a little bit of the slack. Because there is no time to waste to preserve our precious resources and give a shot in the arm to local economies, like Las Cruces."

Obama noted that he has designated 11 national monuments in his presidency. "And I am not finished," he said. "As I said in my State of the Union address, I'm searching for more opportunities to preserve federal lands where communities are speaking up. Because wherever I see an opening to get things done for the American people, I'm going to take it. I've said before: I want to work with anyone in Congress who is ready to get to work and shares those goals, but recently they haven't gotten the job done."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that the designation makes it harder to pass an immigration package this year.

"For many months I have warned that the president's fondness for unilateral action has created widespread doubt among the American people that he and his administration can be counted on to enforce any law he signs, particularly when it comes to securing our nation's borders and reforming our immigration system," Boehner responded. "The president's announcement today intensifies those concerns, demonstrating a level of audacity that is remarkable even for this administration."

A local sheriff predicted that the designation, by impeding development in the region, would make it easier for criminals to operate.

“This is about opposing so many thousands of acres that is going to create nothing more than a pathway for criminals to get into this country to do their criminal acts,” Dona Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison told the Washington Times.

Boehner rolled that argument into his denunciation of unilateral action. "Once again, the president has chosen to bypass the legislative branch -- and, in this case, do so in a manner that adds yet another challenge in our ongoing efforts to secure our Southern border," he said. "At a time of continued cartel violence in Mexico, we should not be putting any additional restraints on efforts to protect our borders."

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