A Leader and A Panderer: Bullock and Rehberg on HR 1505

Some weeks make the difference between politicians and public servants incredibly clear. The former play cynical political games that rely on divisiveness and distraction while the latter analyze policy for its implications on the lives of those they serve. This week, Representative Dennis Rehberg and Attorney General Steve Bullock made the distinction between these two types quite clear.

Responding to the Republican effort to strip environmental protections from the border of the United States, Attorney General Steve Bullock sent a letter to John Boehner and Harry Reid, articulating why HR 1505, Rehberg’s federal land grab, will not only harm law enforcement efforts but damage cooperation with and the sovereignty of Montana’s tribal governments:

As Montana’s chief law enforcement official, I am very aware of the importance of the security of our northern border. On a daily basis, sworn law enforcement officials from my agency, along with scores of their counterparts from local jurisdictions, work closely with federal agents to ensure the security of Montana’s 545-mile border with Canada.
But to be successful, this cannot be done through directives and mandates sent from Washington, D.C. Rather, law enforcement agencies–local, tribal, state and federal–work best through cooperation and collaboration from the ground up.

This proposed legislation would also reach all or parts of five of seven Indian
reservations in Montana. It should come as no surprise that proposed federal land grabs place serious strain upon the government-to-government relationship between the State of Montana and our Indian Nations. As a state we strive to work with the First Montanans in a way that respects their independence and sovereignty–values missing from this legislation.

That’s reasoned analysis of an issue not even considered by Representative Rehberg.

In contrast, our Representative, perhaps feeling the heat from his TEA Party base, offered a nonsensical amendment to the bill, one that would give local sheriffs ultimate authority over federal law enforcement:

Rehberg’s amendment would solve this turf war the correct way and the best way: let the county sheriff decide if and when DHS can enter his county to conduct its law enforcement operations. This puts the final decision under local control rather than under Washington executive control. The people elect their county sheriff to protect them. The sheriff should therefore decide what federal agencies and their employees do in his county.

While that amendment will certainly make Greg Hinkle’s heart flutter, it’s entirely at odds with the stated aim of HR 1505, which Rehberg claimed was intended to reduce inter-agency turf wars over jurisdiction. How anyone could imagine that  empowering local sheriffs to restrict federal law enforcement and border control could pass constitutional muster or reduce jurisdictional squabbles defies logic or explanation.

Caught between his desire to scrap environmental protections and Montanans who believe in federal and state cooperation, Rehberg waffled his way into an utterly incomprehensible position.

Of course, this kind of pandering is nothing new for Representative Rehberg, who supported REAL ID and the Patriot Act before opposing them.

It’s never about policy, but always about politics—and that’s the difference between leaders like Bullock and grandstanders like Rehberg.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • Well, there IS a logical explanation to Reeburp’s actions, one that I have been saying for a long time. The guy is just not very bright. He is really simply a rightwing talking point. He has NO substance of his own. Need proof? Look at how he reacted on FAUX news to the Skibum Jesus story. To Reeburp, it’s all about “freedumb”. Huh? Just what the hell is he blabbering about?

  • On Facebook, my brother has threatened to slap the next person he reads writing “Obamacare”. He’s a conservative, but he’s tired of folks holding people to account while ignoring those truly responsible, and using stupid buzz phrases to do so. I’m thinking he and Eric ought to have a talk …

    • If Moorcat wants to try slapping me, here goes – OBAMACARE, OBAMACARE, OBAMACARE –

      He can find me most days at Rock Creek Lumber, 1002 N. Broadway in Red Lodge.

      After he picks himself up I’ll be happy to talk to him.

      • I wouldn’t slap you, Eric, if I heard you use the word “Obamacare.” I’d just figure you’re a typical low-information moron repeating language you’ve heard on Fox News.

    • Shouldn’t it be called REPUBLICARE, since it was originally proposed by the Heritage Foundation in response to “Hillarycare”?

  • Psst, Pogie. I have a comment stuck in moderation on the Montana Hunters and Anglers post. It’s probably because I used the word “soCI4L1St”. But if it’s because you don’t want me responding on that post, that’s cool too.

  • Let me see if I understand you: you say HR 1505 was supposed to be in aid of larger and more distant federal government, sponsored by Rep Rehberg. Really? I have not read the bill but that doesn’t sound like our Denny.

    Then, when he offers an amendment to remedy that supposed fault, you say it is ‘nonsensical’. Which way should we apply the whip?

    Is Rehberg for or against us commoners here in Montana? Your students would like to know.

    • Are you in my class, Ken?

      “Your Denny” repeatedly has endorsed the expansion of federal power into the lives of Montanans. Did you forget his support for REAL ID? His years of votes for the Patriot Act?

      This amendment doesn’t remedy the fault of this legislation at all. It’s blatantly unconstitutional and would only add another layer of the same kind of bureaucratic in-fighting Rehberg claims this bill is designed to combat.

  • I have admired your teaching from afar Don and simply wanted to point out what I see as inconsistencies in your argument. Some of the others in your circle seem to understand you fairly well. Mrs Pelosi’s dictum in regard to ObamaCare: “we need to pass the bill in order to see what is in it,” probably has wider application than she realized in that the “devil is always in the details” which I understand as how the permanent bureaucracy understands the bill and puts it into effect. I suspect your environmental whacko—ah, gave myself away there—friends were using their regulations to create mischief amongst the various law enforcement agencies that have something to do with our borders. Rehberg’s bill—though flawed: he plays the hand he was dealt, not the one he wished he had—as I understand it was an effort to try to fix this overlapping jurisdictional mess, and maybe do something to firm up our borders against criminals.

    • Speaking of “permanent bureaucracy”, please remind me again how long Dennis has been ‘working’ in government?

      Pogie’s argument was consistent, and answered your questions. This bill would give Homeland Security the ability to supersede other agencies in cases where border security is ‘threatened’ (as of yet undefined). That is the very definition of “jurisdictional mess”.

      I must confess my amusement when someone chides a blogger for ‘inconsistencies’ in argument concerning legislation the scold hasn’t read. That becomes amusement becomes ironically acute when the scold hoists a Straw Man about others not reading a bill or understanding it until it’s passed. I offer you this nugget, Ken. Understanding what a bill is ‘trying’ to fix offers no insight at all into what it would actually accomplish.

    • “Firm up our borders from criminals”?? Wow, kenny. You’re right about ONE thing. You actually DO “suspect” a lot, but know very little. But seriously, keeny, give your best shot to explaining your so-called “overlapping jurisdictional mess”. Sorry, kenny, but talking out your ASS is not the most convincing debating technique. SO, in the interest of making yourself look less the fool, describe this overlapping jurisdictional mess in some detail. I don’t think you can, for you let your fingers do the walkin’ and your ass do the talkin’! Just WHAT, specifically now, IS the “jurisdictional mess”? You see, kenny, ONLY Dopey and the other sponsor of the bill are the ONLY ones who apprently see it! You lose again, but your’re used to that.

    • I don’t think that’s fair, Ken. He wasn’t dealt this card; he helped write this legislation. If he intended to use it as a tool for empowering local governments, why did he only include this sherriffs provision this late in the game, when it has no chance of passage?

      It stinks of pandering to the TEA Party fringe, who, if my link is any indication, bought it completely.

  • Thanks for all the instruction Don and Rob: I need all the help I can get.

    I’ll try to respond from the top, without irony though I can’t guarantee the latter. The ‘permanent bureaucracy’ in my view are those who are not elected and actually put into effect any bill coming from the legislature.

    You are right, I should have read the bill, but when I clicked on Don’s reference it led me to another half-baked summary, so in the heat of the moment I guessed at what the bill said. Overlapping jurisdictions will surely be a mess unless some agency assumes or is given priority. See multiple episodes of NCIS. Sorry Rob, I don’t understand your reference to my Straw Man, though I do agree with your last sentence and might even expand its applicability to the arguments of a bills’ critics.

    Sorry Larry I just can’t get myself to respond to your elegant snarkiness without knowing you better than I can from what I see in print. Perhaps something of use might turn up in my responses to Rob and Don.

    The ‘hand he was dealt’, Don, refers to preceding legislation and regulations which gave us the jurisdictional overlapping. The ‘Tea Party fringe’ I’m guessing refers to the spontaneous gatherings of large numbers of ordinary people starting a year or two ago, the ones who don’t have lobbyists to represent their point of view. If Rehberg panders to them that might be good for the country. I agree that it looks silly to add an amendment that contradicts the main thrust of the bill but I don’t understand all the ‘inside baseball’ of the legislative process.

    I have re-read this and certify that it is irony-free.

    • Yeah, that Teatard party is drawing HUGE crowds now, right Kenny? But where? You see they done been outed. Their day is done.

    • I think we might have a different view of the organic nature of the TEA Party, Ken. 🙂

      Actually, I’m beginning to wonder if Rehberg even actually proposed this amendment or just told these people he did. It certainly is pretty late to “propose” an amendment after a bill has left committee.

  • Ken –

    First of all, thanks for commenting in good faith and bearing with us.

    The need to eliminate conflicts of jurisdiction between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Interior may indeed be a real one. I think there are three large issues that have been raised with the way this bill does that. First, there is the perception that it will antagonize local residents because Federal law enforcement will have far more rights than before. Then there is the question of environmental protection, especially in areas were there are no roads currently; there doesn’t seem to be any incentive here for the DHS to be careful with the environment as they do their jobs. Finally, the issue of tribal sovereignty has also been raised.

    Denny’s bill may solve the first of these concerns, but in so doing he cancels out the entire original purpose of the bill. He replaces a conflict of jurisdiction between two agencies with a conflict of jurisdiction between the DHS and dozens (hundreds? I don’t want to count) of county sheriffs along the border. And where I doubt that the Department of the Interior intentionally sabotages border security, it is not hard to imagine an individual sheriff on the border doing so for his or her personal agenda, be it because they want to let certain people through or because they want to deal with the issue their own way (Joe Arpaio, anyone?).

    • Jeebus!

      “The need to eliminate conflicts of jurisdiction between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Interior may indeed be a real one.”

      Once you accept a faulty premise, you lose. MAKE kenny boy PRODUCE some evidence with FACTS! That’s kind’a how a debate works. kenny is making a claim, a totally specious one. Therefore, it is incumbent upon him to prove up, NOT for you to meekly accept it. There is NO conflict except in Dopey Reebup’s and Kenny’s mind. I wanna see kenny’s proof. Farting loudly is NOT proof. And that’s all kenny’s done so far.

  • ““The need to eliminate conflicts of jurisdiction between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Interior may indeed be a real one.””

    I am merely admitting the possibility that his premise is correct – unlike some, I am willing to admit my lack of omniscience in political matters. Even if the premise is correct, and there does need to be a different balance between environmental protection and border protection, the situation is clearly different between the northern and southern borders, and Denny’s position here is in fact worse than the standard one. The belief that DHS needs more authority can be defended – however, purporting to solve this problem by giving more power to dozens of local sheriffs is not not defensible regardless of which side of the environment-border patrol debate you’re on. It damages the environment and the ability of DHS to do their jobs – and that’s quite a feat.

    • WHOOSH! Right over your head, dude! One…..more……time! BEFORE you can debate whether or not Dopey’s bill is needed, you MUST first prove a need! Is that hard? Just WHAT THE HELL are you and the dufi debating? That neither of you know just WHAT you’re debating about?

      Kenny, crunch time, dufus. Let’s see your PROOF that there exists this so-called jurisdictional mess. I’m sayin’ that you’re full of it, and that you have NO idea what you’re talking about. Am I right or what?

  • The original ‘inconsistency’ I was referring to had to do with a knowledge of Rehberg’s basic stance about federal and state government, i.e. he seems to be a fairly conservative, small-government kind of guy; and then Don, in one of his comments suggests the exact opposite. The details of the bill still are obscure to me. I might not disagree with some of the criticism of the details. It was the purpose of the bill which I was concerned about as it sounded as if you, Don, and perhaps others were on the payroll of the Ministry of Truth. I still wonder about that after seeing the latest anti-Rehberg ad on TV.

    • Ken, I had sincere hopes that you would read the bill. If you would like a URL to the text, here it is:


      You will notice that in it’s own statement of purpose, it doesn’t seek to alleviate jurisdictional conflict, but rather to bulldoze over it:

      “To prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from taking action on public lands which impede border security on such lands, and for other purposes.”

      In short, it hands the DHS carte blanche to do as they see fit in the interests of ‘border security’, regardless of the authority granted to Interior or Ag. Here’s where it gets fun:

      “(b) Authorized Activities- The Secretary of Homeland Security shall have immediate access to any public land managed by the Federal Government (including land managed by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture) for purposes of conducting activities that assist in securing the border (including access to maintain and construct roads, construct a fence, use vehicles to patrol, and set up monitoring equipment).”

      It’s subtle, but take a good look. That provision (combined with (a) which I trust you’ll read on your own) gives the DHS the authority to do much more than just operate freely in lands overseen and administered by Interior and Ag. It states, fairly clearly, that HS can do what they want not just in violation of authority of other departments, but it gives HS a waiver to violate Congressional statute which directs the actions of those other departments. An explanation of those waivers is given in section (c), the clarifications. Again, I trust you’ll read that on your own, but it is important to highlight this:

      “(c)(2) DESCRIPTION OF LAWS WAIVED- The laws referred to in paragraph (1) are the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.), the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703 et seq.), the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.), the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (16 U.S.C. 470aa et seq.), the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300f et seq.), the Noise Control Act of 1972 (42 U.S.C. 4901 et seq.), the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq.), Public Law 86-523 (16 U.S.C. 469 et seq.), the Act of June 8, 1906 (commonly known as the `Antiquities Act of 1906′) (16 U.S.C. 431 et seq.), the Act of August 21, 1935 (16 U.S.C. 461 et seq.), the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.), the Farmland Protection Policy Act (7 U.S.C. 4201 et seq.), the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (16 U.S.C. 1451 et seq.), the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.), the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.), the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd et seq.), the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742a et seq.), the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (16 U.S.C. 661 et seq.), subchapter II of chapter 5, and chapter 7, of title 5, United States Code (commonly known as the `Administrative Procedure Act’), the Otay Mountain Wilderness Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-145, 113 Stat. 1711), sections 102(29) and 103 of California Desert Protection Act of 1994 (16 U.S.C. 410aaa et seq.), the National Park Service Organic Act (16 U.S.C. 1 et seq.), Public Law 91-383 (16 U.S.C. 1a-1 et seq.), sections 401(7), 403, and 404 of the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 (Public Law 95-625, 92 Stat. 3467), the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990 (16 U.S.C. 1132 note; Public Law 101-628), section 10 of the Act of March 3, 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403), the Act of June 8, 1940 (16 U.S.C. 668 et seq.), (25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.), Public Law 95-341 (42 U.S.C. 1996), Public Law 103-141 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.), the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (16 U.S.C. 1600 et seq.), and the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. 528 et seq.).”

      Please, take a good long look at that list, Ken. This bill does exactly what the opponents say it does. It negates over one hundred years of law and policy, at the whim of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. That is precisely a jurisdictional nightmare, and an intrusion of ‘Big Government’. You want to close an access road across BLM land for an oil lease project? Appeal to Homeland Security, and no problem. You want a cell phone tap station deep in the roadless Yakk? Appeal to Homeland security, and no problem. You want a pipeline transfer station and can’t get the appropriate environmental review? Oil supply is a matter of national security. Appeal to the DHS, and no problem.

      In short, if this bill passes (which it won’t), the laws of the US will apply, until they don’t based on the whims of whatever administration is in the White House. Does that truly sound like ‘small government’ to you? Does that in any way sound like responsible government to you? It doesn’t matter what “our Denny” seems to like. His actions prove him to be exactly what Pogie refered to him as, a big government loving opportunist. ken, if you are a conservative and believer in a smaller more responsible government, then Dennis is exactly the wrong horse for you to back.

    • “he seems to be a fairly conservative, small-government kind of guy” Therein lies the original inconsistency. He is greatly strengthening the federal government, between this bill, the PATRIOT Act, and real ID, while continuing to be perceived as the small government candidate. But that inconsistency wasn’t enough – he flipped again when confronted with people actually knowing about his position. Now he wants to increase the jurisdictional mess while waiving environmental protection.

      And Larry – we’re not the senate. We’re not debating this bill. We’re debating what Rehberg’s action towards the bill says about his character. Whatever Ken wants to believe about the necessity of the bill, there’s only one way to interpret what it says about Rehberg as a lawmaker.

      • Polish Wolf, Larry is correct in pointing out that this bill is a solution in search of a problem. And that says a great deal about Rehberg’s character, as well as his abilities as a legislator. Rehberg’s problem is very real and very clear. He wants to get elected to higher office, so he latches onto a bill who’s very purpose for existing is promoting patriotic fear of nothing. That might solve his problem in Arizona. Up here in the North, it just shows that Dennis doesn’t understand thing One about what Montana values.

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