Similar to former President Bill Clinton before him, President Barack Obama now faces a Republican-controlled Congress, one that will almost certainly be implacably hostile toward progressive governance and determined to put a conservative stamp on the statute books.
If the past is any guide, a significant part of the agenda of the incoming Congress will be a broad-based attack on the conservation of public lands. The GOP leadership launched exactly that kind of assault after sweeping into power on Capitol Hill in 1995 following an election in which Republicans gained 54 seats in the House and 8 in the Senate. It was the first time since 1954 that Republicans controlled the House, and they had considerable pent-up demands about how the federal government should manage its vast network of national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and rangelands.
However, President Clinton was able to blunt the GOP leadership’s anti-environment agenda through aggressive use of the presidential veto and the credible threat of a veto. President Obama should be prepared to do the same in defense of a system of public lands whose conservation and recreation benefits are unmatched in the world. Of course, that is not the view of many Republicans, who see the nation’s public lands as long overdue for plundering for economic gain by their corporate allies, particularly the oil and gas industry.
For more on this idea, please see: