Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s unfortunate racially-charged remarks have overshadowed the Federal show of force that descended upon his cattle operation last month. But as many lawmakers have scrambled to distance themselves from the rancher, one Republican Congressman from Utah remains focused on the bigger picture: too much Federal power.
Representative Chris Stewart, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, is considering a measure that would cut funding for “paramilitary units” operating under the control of the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Land Management and a number of other bureaucratic Federal agencies.
Speaking on the House floor this week, Stewart reminded lawmakers of the concerns at the forefront of the land dispute before Bundy’s inartful observations about race in America were reported by a New York Times reporter.
“There are lots of people who are really concerned when the BLM shows up with its own SWAT team,” he said, noting that there are dozens of other government agencies with similarly armed units. “They’re regulatory agencies; they’re not paramilitary units, and I think that concerns a lot of us.”
For more than two decades Bundy has failed to pay fees required to graze his cattle on Federal land. After he lost in two separate attempts to have the nearly $1 million in fines and fees dismissed, a court ordered Bundy’s cattle rounded up and removed from the land.
Officials subsequently blocked road access to Bundy’s ranch and a small army of armed Federal agents surrounded his property. As the ordeal continued, some of the rancher’s cattle were shot and his son was tasered by BLM agents.
Furthermore, much of the land the agency claimed it was protecting was trampled by the army of Feds.
The BLM only called back its armed agents when confronted by armed members of civilian militias who showed up in support of Bundy.
Despite Senator Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) ridiculous claim that Bundy’s supporters are “domestic terrorists,” the BLM was taking action against an insubordinate rancher— not a homicidal maniac. Many small government advocates were justifiably appalled about the government’s heavy-handed response to what essentially amounted to failure to pay a bill.
Stewart told The Salt Lake Tribune that the situation would likely have turned out differently if BLM had relied on local law enforcement for protection while dealing with Bundy.
“They should do what anyone else would do,” Stewart said. “Call the local sheriff, who has the capability to intervene in situations like that.”
Stewart isn’t the first lawmaker to question why so many Federal bureaucracies boast units of heavily-armed agents.
Responding to Reid’s “domestic terrorist” claim last month, Republican Senator Rand Paul told a radio station in his home State of Kentucky, “
“I think there’s an opposite thing to what Harry Reid said, and that’s the federal government shouldn’t violate the law, nor should we have 48 Federal agencies carrying weapons and having SWAT teams,” Paul said.
The Senator’s father, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, gave a passionate speech all the way back in 1997 decrying the growing army of armed Federal bureaucrats.
“Under the Constitution, it was never meant to be a Federal police force,” Paul said on the House floor at the time. “Even and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), limited only to investigations, was not accepted until this century. Yet, today, fueled by the Federal government’s misdirected ‘war on drugs,’ radical environmentalism and the aggressive behavior of the ‘Nanny State,’ we have witnessed a massive buildup of a virtual army of armed regulators prowling the States where they have no authority. The sacrifice of individual responsibility and the concept of local government by majority of American citizens has permitted the army of bureaucrats to thrive.”
Later in the speech, Paul remarked, “It is ironic that the proliferation of guns in the hands of the bureaucrats is pushed by the anti-gun fanatics who hate the second amendment and would disarm every law-abiding American citizen. Yes, we need gun control. We need to disarm our bureaucrats, then abolish the agencies. If government bureaucrats like guns that much, let them seek work with the NRA.”
Today, estimates suggest that there are more than 25,000 armed personnel working under bureaucratic Federal agencies.