The U.S. Senate Appropriations panel with jurisdiction over the Interior Department approved a fiscal 2020 spending measure that does not include funding for the agency’s reorganization plan, including the BLM move.
But the Trump administration indicated it would not back down from the planned move, instead putting employee benefits on the line in the dispute…
In its fiscal 2020 spending proposal, released this week, the Senate Interior and Environment Subcommittee zeroed out funding for the reorganization. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is slated to vote on the bill later this week.
“This bill contains no additional resources to implement the ill-advised relocation of the Bureau of Land Management,” Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), the top Democrat on the committee, said at the panel’s vote on the spending measure. [Pols emphasis]
We’re watching for the next vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee, but what we’re seeing here is further resistance on the part of most Democrats to the relocation of the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to Grand Junction in far western Colorado–resistance that has now made it through a GOP-controlled Senate subcommittee for further debate. The threat by the Trump administration to punish BLM employees by docking their moving reimbursements if Congress doesn’t fund the BLM’s move to Grand Junction is hardball that won’t win them much sympathy, and it’s in direct retaliation to the opposition to the move by career BLM employees.
The controversy evolving into full-blown opposition by policy experts, former and current BLM career employees, and now most Democrats in Washington to moving the BLM to Grand Junction appears to have caught many Colorado Democrats off guard. It may not have been clear to local boosters early on in the discussions, but the widespread concern that has arisen over the weakening of the BLM’s core mission of protecting public lands by moving its headquarters to a remote building literally shared with oil and gas companies should oblige responsible Coloradans to rethink their previous support for this whole business.
In the end, though, the executive branch most likely does have the power to force through this relocation, and if the Trump administration is willing to absorb the criticism from experts and the public in addition to the expected attrition of BLM employees–which may be a feature, not a bug–there may be little anyone can do to stop them. The one thing we can say is that in the event Trump (or another Republican) loses the election next fall, this could prove to be the shortest “relocation” in the BLM’s history.