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NDAA ‘Ode To The Lesser Prairie Chicken’

Posted by Colin Clark on


Lesser prairie chicken and House NDAA 2016

Verily, the lesser prairie chicken.

WASHINGTON: Since everyone is exhausted after the final passage of the House version of the annual defense policy bill, let us offer a note of whimsy, nay, even humor, to help lift everyone’s spirits after the unusually depressing saga of watching Democrats and Republicans largely just stand on the floor and bash each other.

Let us begin with this ode to democracy from the lips of Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat. Let us note first that Speier is not without blame, for she is a member of Congress. But she did elevate the debate with this bit of whimsy.

“One of our most solemn duties in Congress is dealing with emerging national security threats. We eliminated Bin Laden. We are making progress in weakening ISIL. And fortunately, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have alerted us to a new threat emerging deep in the heart of the western US, a sort of feathery sleeper cell that just can’t wait to disrupt our way of life. What is inspiring so much fear? The lesser prairie chicken.”

“Listening to this debate, you’d think that the lesser prairie chicken was single-handedly providing aid and comfort to the enemy, not just living on the prairie and doing the occasional little dance. But as with its unfortunate relative, the greater sage grouse, my colleagues across the aisle are trying to use the NDAA to do a little dance of their own, around the science of the Endangered Species Act.

“The prairie chicken has not attacked our citizens, threatened our allies, or disrupted our military operations. Listing the sage grouse as endangered—which is a scientific decision not within the purview of Congress—will have absolutely no effect on Department of Defense operations.

“The worst that anyone can say about the prairie chicken is that it’s not really a chicken, but a grouse. This amendment has no place in the NDAA, and I urge my colleagues to oppose it.”

The debate over the prairie chicken is a serious one. Western Republicans, always with an eye on the federal government’s pernicious encroachments on local property rights and on federal regulations in general, inserted language about the prairie chicken into the NDAA. The House approved an amendment Thursday night by voice vote to “prohibit the further listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened or endangered species until 2021.”

Rep. Tim HuelskampThe website of Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp, champion of the legislation, heralded his victory: “Huelskamp Elated by House Vote to Delist Lesser Prairie Chicken.”

“With passage of this amendment, we begin ending the massive regulatory threat to our rural way of life from the ill-conceived listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken,” Huelskamp said in a Friday statement. “It is high time that we place a greater value on the citizens of rural America than the Lesser Prairie Chicken.”

Of course, there’s another side to the argument.  The (federal) Fish and Wildlife Service says the bird was listed because there are a lot fewer of them in recent years. They are down to 18,000 in their five home states of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
To Huelskamp it’s simple: “I have been working hard to get the federal government off the backs of my fellow farmers, ranchers, small business owners and our rural economy.”

The House version of the NDAA passed this morning by of vote of 269 to 151.

This little interlude must not let us forget that the policy bill can mean lives lost or won, smart strategies funded or not and America’s role in the world defined. Now, about those wars in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan

What do you think?