Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Conservation and Economic Growth Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen of the House, I rise in opposition to H.R. 2578.

Now, some of you may recall the old Rod Serling television show, ``The Twilight Zone.'' At the beginning of each episode, Serling would explain that viewers were ``about to enter another dimension--a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind, a journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone.''

Well, that is very much where we are this week on the House floor. We are truly entering another dimension--a wondrous land of paranoid imagination. Republicans call it the ``Operational Control Zone,'' but it is really the ``Drone Zone.''

Submitted for your consideration are the following facts:

This week, world leaders are gathering in Rio to deal with the threat of global warming. Meanwhile, the majority has us gathered here to address the threat sea lions pose to salmon. Right now, firefighters are working day and night to try to contain wildfires in forests in Colorado and New Mexico, and the majority has us working here to give away old-growth Alaskan forest.

We have just 2 weeks before the transportation authorization bill expires and student loan rates double. And what are we doing? We are spending an entire day on a piece of legislation that has zero chance of being enacted into law. It is a package of bad ideas that are largely irrelevant to the real issues facing our Nation.

Title I of this bill would flood part of a Wild and Scenic River. Title III is an earmark to an Alaskan Native corporation that will facilitate clear-cutting in the Tongass National Forest. Titles IV and V appear to create new parks, but include harmful provisions that would cripple the management of these parks. Title VII would authorize the death penalty for sea lions whose only crime is eating fish. Title X would overturn the protections for endangered turtles from being run over by off-road vehicles. Title XI would extend the practice of below-cost grazing on public lands--a bargain-basement discount for cattlemen all across this country not paying their fair share. Actually, being a type of Federal welfare for cattlemen. And unbelievably, title XIV would create a 100-mile ``drone zone'' along our northern and southern borders within which the Border Patrol could suspend 36 environmental laws and seize control of all public land management.

Let me spend a moment here talking about what I find to be the most offensive part of this legislation: title XIV. This is the national map. What the Republicans do here today is they take a 100-mile area all along the northern border of the United States and the southern border of the United States and they create a new area. And this new area is really a drone zone. The reason that it's a drone zone is that it allows for 36 health and safety and environmental laws to be overridden, and it would expand the area where the Department of Homeland Security could use drones for surveillance. It allows the Department of Homeland Security to shut down national parks at a moment's notice. So all of a sudden the Department of Homeland Security can start using drones in this area.

Now, when you add up all of the space that is now included, it is equal to the total area of California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut combined, which will now be in this new special area that has the Department of Homeland Security determining where drones can be used. And as we know, that won't be just for ensuring environmental laws not being violated. They'll be over this whole area.

Now, if you take a look at this map, I understand why the gentleman from Utah introduced this bill. Utah is far away from the Republican drone zone. They're not within the hundred miles of the border of the Mexican or Canadian people. But what if you live in Maine? Nearly your entire State is in this drone zone. Want to go to Acadia National Park? Better check with the Department of Homeland Security and the Republicans first. Or Minnesota: maybe you want to take a trip up to the Boundary Waters. Better check with the Department of Homeland Security and the Republicans first. Or Olympia National Park in Washington State: better check with the Department of Homeland Security or the Republicans first.

Want clean air in the drone zone? Better make sure the Department of Homeland Security and the Republicans haven't exempted the Clean Air Act. Want to drink some water after a long hike? Better make sure the Department of Homeland Security and the Republicans haven't waived the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Make no mistake, this isn't a bill that actually addresses America's immigration issues. Neither the Department of Homeland Security nor its Customs and Border Protection division support this bill. They don't want this authority, but the Republicans are insisting on giving them this authority--100 miles along the Mexican and Canadian borders.

The GOP's drone zone bill does not increase resources for border agents, but instead turns over our natural resources to the Department of Homeland Security. Passing this bill does not increase the number of Border Patrol agent boots on the ground. It just ignores the protections against trampling on sovereign and sacred ground like tribal grave sites. It does not look for a path toward citizenship. It tells families on vacation or a picnic that the Department of Homeland Security can kick you off a path at any moment.

Under this bill, ranchers and their cattle can be herded away by border agents, jeopardizing their entire ranching operation. Families and visitors to public parks can have their trips canceled. And the water, the air, and the land will be left unprotected.

Instead of working to pass a DREAM Act to help solve the immigration challenge, House Republicans instead want to create a nightmare scenario at our borders. That's why more than 50 Hispanic and Latino groups have joined with environmental organizations, tribal groups, and organizations representing sportsmen and hunters to oppose the Republican drone zone bill. Fifty Hispanic and Latino groups opposing this bill.

We might be spending 4 hours here today on the House floor in a legislative twilight zone created by the majority considering a bill that isn't grounded in reality. But as we do, let us not forget that there are millions of Americans outside of this alternative reality who are trying to make ends meet, trying to keep their families together and safe, and hoping to maintain the environmental protections which make our country great.

I urge a ``no'' vote on this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, we're about to talk about grazing fees. For people in many parts of the country, they may not know what that is. That is that, on Federal lands across the country, cattlemen can bring their cattle onto Federal lands--that is, the public lands of the United States--and graze. And what are they charged? Well, they're charged $1.35. That's exactly what they were charged in 1986.

Now, right next to this Federal land, in many States, there is State land. That State land in Colorado is very valuable; but they ensure, the Governor of Colorado, that the cattlemen there in that State pay $10 to graze, not 1.35. In Montana, cattlemen have to pay $7.90. In Utah, they have to pay $7.30. But on the public lands in each of those States--that is, the Federal lands--it's 1.35, just hasn't increased. And who pays the price? Well, the Federal taxpayer pays the price because the cattlemen get to basically have this incredible subsidy.

So, just to use the analogy, when I started working, I got paid $1.35 when I was a kid. I'm sure there are many people who would still like to just pay $1.35 for a kid to work in the supermarket, but they can't do it because time moves on--unless you're a cattleman, where they have locked that minimum price into a hermetically sealed, cryogenically frozen price, $1.35. That's great, except for the Federal taxpayer who cannot collect all of the money they need.

Or should we just say, for the sake of discussion, that you happen to have a rent-controlled apartment in New York City. The rent was set back in 1986 or 1976, and now the markets have raised that price up to perhaps $4,000. The Republicans would say, well, rent control, that's good; we like keeping the price that way because it benefits a certain class of people. And I understand the Republican philosophy of freezing in prices that way--keeping the minimum wage as low as possible, keeping the rent control price for an apartment as low as possible. I understand the government intervention role of the Federal Government not allowing the free market to determine the price of something. But here what happens is that it balloons the Federal deficit because people aren't able to collect what we absolutely know to be the price to graze for a cow per day. We know what the price is because, in the adjoining land in Colorado or Utah or in Montana or in Washington State, we know what the State is charging on State public lands.

So this is just an attempt to give the Department of the Interior the ability to raise by $1--not all the way up to $10, not all the way up to $7, but just $1 from $1.35 up to $2.35--just as a little experiment just to see what happens out there in the market when people actually have to pay something that even remotely approximates what the price to graze would be.

At this point, Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. MARKEY. I yield myself the remainder of my time.

So this argument that's being made by the Republicans is nonsensical. What you're saying is, that in your home State, on State land, you charge 10 bucks or 7 bucks to the cattlemen to graze. But on Federal land it's only a buck 35 in your State. And your answer to raising the price for cattlemen is that we should be having a debate over whether or not the State of Colorado or Montana controls all of the Federal land in your State. Then you'll begin to debate whether or not cattlemen should get away with only a buck 35?

You know, you're giving new definition to the term ``free range beef.'' You're allowing for the cattlemen in these States to get away with murder, and you're not even debating the issue of how they get away with this.

That's all we want from you. Tell us why you think they deserve a buck 35. You don't even want to reach that issue. You want to go off on the secondary issue of how much land in each State is controlled by the Federal Government, which is not what we are debating. We're debating how cattlemen get away with this bargain basement price that then comes to every other State to make up the difference in the Federal deficit because you're unwilling to collect it.

Meanwhile, you say to Grandma, higher rates for Medicare. You say to kids in school, higher payback for the loans that you take out. But for the cattlemen in your home State, somehow or other you don't understand that this is a debate that goes to the heart of why it is the people are very unhappy with the way the Federal Government operates.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. MARKEY. I rise in opposition to the amendment.


Mr. MARKEY. This amendment is just further evidence that the problem this drone zone bill claims to be solving does not exist and that the underlying bill is a dangerous overreach.

When this legislation was first introduced, we were told that it was necessary to establish this 100-mile drone zone around the entire United States--east coast, west coast, Hawaii, and Alaska. That version of the drone zone looked like a giant red belt surrounding the entire country. Then supporters of the bill decided that they'd gone too far. The bill was altered to say the drone zone would only cover a 100-mile stretch along our northern and southern borders and along the eastern border of Alaska. Even with that change, we were still assured that a blanket waiver of the full list of 36 bedrock environmental laws was absolutely necessary for our border security.

Now we have a further change.

This amendment will reduce the list of laws weighed by the drone zone from 36 environmental laws down to 16 environmental laws. This is the ever-shrinking bill. It gets smaller and smaller as people realize that environmental laws are not the problem when it comes to border security and that the zone created by this bill would harm the environment and individual freedoms for millions of Americans.

The Bishop amendment proves that the underlying bill has always been an extreme and extremely harmful solution to a problem that does not exist. Perhaps if we give supporters enough time, they can shrink this idea down to waiving parking enforcement in a small area around Tucson. This amendment reduces the damage this bill would do, but it does not begin to prevent that damage. Waiving 36 laws was an unnecessary overreach, and waiving 16 laws would be as well.

Limiting the scope of this terrible bill is a small step in the right direction, so there is no reason to oppose this amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top