House Democrats Are Planning to Go After Cliven Bundy in Spending-Bill Fight

An amendment due in the House this week would target the right-wing hero.

Democrats are going hard after a right-wing hero this week, with plans to put language on the House floor that some have deemed the "Cliven Bundy amendment."

Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona plans to introduce an amendment to the House fiscal 2016 spending bill for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency that would block the government from issuing grazing permits to people with unpaid grazing fees.

That's language that pushes back against Bundy, a cattle rancher in southeastern Nevada who's been locked in a decades-long dispute with the Bureau of Land Management over unpaid grazing fees on federal land.

Bundy became a conservative folk hero after grazing his cattle on federal land in Nevada without paying fees, claiming that the government has no authority over the land. In 2014, the Bureau of Land Management tried to collect more than $1 million in debt, launching a weeks-long standoff with armed Bundy supporters.

"The amendment reasserts Congress' support for enforcing and monitoring grazing fees on public lands," said a spokesman for Gallego. "People like Cliven Bundy who refuse to pay their grazing fees in violation of the law cost taxpayers millions of dollars in lost revenue on grazing allotment."

Bundy lost much of his support after making racist comments to The New York Times, but still has support from some on the Right because of his battle for land rights. The 2014 dispute with BLM launched a Washington debate about the role of the federal government in managing land, with many conservatives rallying to Bundy's side to object to what they saw as federal overreach on public lands.

Just last week, Bundy met with Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul in Nevada as part of a campaign stop by the senator to discuss public lands. "I think almost all land use issues and animal issues, endangered species issues, ought to be handled at the state level," Paul told the Associated Press.

The amendment is planned as part of the debate over the appropriations bill for the Interior Department and the EPA, which began before the July 4 recess and will resume Tuesday. Democrats are planning a slew of amendments on the bill, which comes laden with riders targeting the Obama administration's climate-change agenda and other environmental regulations.

Democrats have said they're looking at a flood of amendments to try to scale back some of the riders, which also would curtail regulations on ozone pollution, a Clean Water Act expansion, and Endangered Species Act listings. It's unlikely the amendments will succeed, but the White House has already promised a veto threat on the bill should it reach President Obama's desk.