Congressional Republicans have condemned Barack Obama for designating five new national monuments at a time when sequester funding cuts are hitting existing national parks and landmarks. Doc Hastings, the Republican chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement on Monday criticising the president for spending at a time when the sequester has forced the cancellation of White House tours. Obama signed proclamations on Monday establishing the five new monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act….
The White House, anticipating criticism on financial grounds, quoted a 2006 National Parks and Conservation Association study saying that every federal dollar invested in national parks generated at least four dollars for the public. The White House claimed the national parks supported 267,000 private sector jobs.
The five monuments are: the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers monument in Ohio, commemorating the first African American colonel; a First State monument in Delaware, recalling the state’s early history; the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad monument in Maryland in memory of her work in helping escaping slaves; the Río Grande del Norte monument, an area of spectacular landscape in New Mexico, and another area of exceptional beauty, the San Juan Islands, in Washington state.
Since national parks are usually popular across party lines, Hastings’s objections are a sign of how extreme the Republican Party has become. Also, if Hastings really objects to sequestration, he and the other Republicans in Congress can get rid of it any time they want through appropriate legislation.