Democrats forced a second subcommittee meeting to discuss national monument legislation Tuesday after all but three Democratic members skipped a meeting on the same topic held weeks earlier.
The House Subcommittee on Federal Lands met Tuesday to hold a “minority day” hearing for the House minority party members. The hearing centered on a bill that had been discussed weeks ago, but all Democratic members except Reps. Raul Grijalva, Alan Lowenthal, and Ruben Gallego either skipped the hearing or left early. Democrats were outnumbered four to one throughout the hearing, and Republicans dominated the time.
The bill in debate establishes a tribal council to co-manage two national monuments created within the former Bears Ears National Monument boundary. Bears Ears was designated by former President Barack Obama in December 2016. President Donald Trump reduced the designation by roughly 85 percent about a year later.
“I was shocked that there were not more Democrats there,” Lowenthal told National Journal. “I was very surprised that people don’t understand that this is a direct assault on the previous administration’s monument policy and also a direct attack on the sovereignty of Native Americans.”
“There’s just got to be a bigger effort on our part,” Grijalva said.
Minority day hearings are rarely requested because the minority party can invite a witness to testify during the original hearing. After inviting a witness to the first hearing, however, Democratic subcommittee members asked for an additional hearing to “reflect a fair representation of stakeholders affected by this legislation,” according to a letter several members sent to subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock.
In the makeup meeting, Democrats invited five representatives of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, a council set up by Obama to serve an advisory role in managing Bears Ears. The Obama-era council lacked legal decision-making power, but offered advice to the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, which were responsible for governing the national monument.
Democrats’ witnesses came from each tribe represented on the coalition, and not one living within 100 miles of Bears Ears National Monument. Four of the five witnesses called by Democrats lived outside the state of Utah.
Republicans’ witness San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally, a Navajo native, was the lone representative from the county that houses Bears Ears.
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