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March 22, 2019

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Capitol Hill buzz: Harry Reid talks monuments, jabs at Republicans

Harry Reid

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks at Center for American Progress Action Fund, in Washington, Thursday, March 17, 2016.

WASHINGTON — Harry Reid loves national monuments designated by President Barack Obama.

The Senate Democratic leader on Wednesday highlighted the economic and cultural benefits of monuments, including the 704,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument created last year in Reid's home state of Nevada.

Reid called the area, with its lunar-like landscapes and centuries-old rock art, "stunningly beautiful" and said it "represents the Nevada I love and was born in."

But even as he and fellow Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico recited benefits brought by the 22 national monuments Obama has created since 2009, Reid could not resist partisan jabs at Republicans, who have accused Obama of sneaky land grabs that bypass Congress and ignore the interests of local residents.

"I don't know what people are complaining about. Maybe they have nothing better to complain about," Reid said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

"There are certain things that need to be done," Reid said, but a "do-nothing Congress led by the Republicans filibustering everything" has given Obama and congressional Democrats "little opportunity to do things constructively, legislatively."

Obama had "no choice" but to step up his use of executive orders — including his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect national monuments, Reid said. "I've been in Congress a long time and there's never been anything like it with this obstruction."

A report released by a business group Wednesday said 10 national monuments created by Obama since 2012 have an economic impact of $156 million a year and support more than 1,800 jobs. The report was compiled by Small Business Majority, a Washington-based advocacy group.

While he appreciates Obama's designation of Basin and Range, Reid said he hopes the president will create at least one more monument in his state, the Gold Butte area in southern Nevada.

The ecologically fragile area is where Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy led an armed standoff against government agents two years ago.

"Now most of them are in jail so maybe we can move forward on that," Reid said.

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