WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act, a measure with broad bipartisan support that guarantees maximum annual funding for a federal program to acquire and preserve land for public use.
Trump – who has left the Paris Agreement on climate change, lifted restrictions on toxic air pollution and removed climate change from a list of national security threats – announced the new law as a groundbreaking environmental performance for which he deserved credit.
“From an environmental point of view and from the beauty of our country̵
“At some point, they need to start thinking about the Republican Party and all the incredible things we have done on conservation and many other fronts,” Trump said.
The law, which allocates $ 900 million a year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and provides up to $ 9.5 billion over five years to begin clearing a national park maintenance reserve, was approved by a vote of 310 to 107 in the House. It was introduced last year by Representative John Lewis, Georgia’s Democrat and civil rights leader who died last month.
But no Democrats were invited to the signing ceremony, which was attended by six Republican senators and three Republican congressmen, other than senior administrative officials. Trump did not mention Lewis or any of his Democratic colleagues in his comments.
Asked why the Democrats were not invited or recognized, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said that “the only thing we recognize about the Congress Democrats right now is how scary it is that Americans go without paychecks because they refuse to cooperate with Martha McSally. Republicans and the president to make sure these payments go out. “
McEnany referred to the deadlock on Capitol Hill between Republicans, including Ms. McSally in Arizona, and the Democrats as they negotiate a new round of federal support to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump was persuaded to support the bill by two Western Republican senators – Senator Cory Gardner in Colorado and Senator Steve Daines in Montana – who are facing tough re-election battles and saw the move as helpful to their states and their chances of election. Mr Daines and Mr Gardner met with the President last year and told him that signing the measure would give him a significant preservation legacy.
“It was a meeting that took place, and within about a minute I was convinced,” Trump said on Tuesday. “And I was not at all convinced before I went in.”
Even when he tried to bill himself as an environmental activist with a legacy that would compete with Roosevelt’s, the president also showed a lack of knowledge about one of the country’s most famous national parks.
He bungled the statement from Yosemite National Park in California, referring to it as “yo Semites” as he read from his prepared remarks, creating an instant viral moment mocked online by the Democratic National Committee.
And on the same day that Trump signed the measure, his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and Nick Ayers, a former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, publicly opposed the government’s long-term efforts to open Pebble Mine, a large gold and copper mine in Alaska.
Trump officials concluded last month that the opening of the mine would not pose serious environmental risks, a reversal of the Obama administration’s position. Mr Ayers and the president’s son wrote on Twitter that they wanted Trump to lead the Environmental Protection Agency to block the opening of the silicon mine.