Utah Rep. Chris Stewart Says BLM, Other Fed Agencies Are Not “Paramilitary Units”

By:  Warren Mass
Utah Rep. Chris Stewart Says BLM, Other Fed Agencies Are Not “Paramilitary Units”

Representative Chris Stewart (R-Utah) strongly criticized the actions of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for deploying what the congressman described as a “SWAT team” during the recent standoff between federal agents and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was backed by a civilian militia.

“There are lots of people who are really concerned when the BLM shows up with its own SWAT team,” Stewart said off the House floor on April 29. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Smith also expressed concern about other federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), arming their agents, stating: “They’re regulatory agencies; they’re not paramilitary units, and I think that concerns a lot of us.”

Stewart, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he will attempt to cut funding for any federal “paramilitary units” and require the BLM, IRS, and other regulatory agencies to request assistance from local law enforcement, rather than sending in their own armed units, reported the Tribune.

The Utah congressman stressed that he isn’t taking sides in the recent Bundy standoff, but was nevertheless shocked to see the federal government’s response and believes it led to the civilian militia that showed up to defend the rancher. But Stewart says agencies such as the BLM should defer to local police for muscle instead of bringing in their own. “They should do what anyone else would do,” Stewart told the Tribune. “Call the local sheriff, who has the capability to intervene in situations like that.”

The involvement of local law enforcement proved to be beneficial in the Bundy standoff, as Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie served as a negotiator between Bundy and the BLM on April 11. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the next day that “federal land officials backed off and agreed to give up the cattle to Bundy’s family and supporters ... fearing for the safety of its agents and the public.”

Stewart scored 60 percent on the most recent “Freedom Index,” compiled by The New American to rate members of Congress according to their faithfulness to the Constitution. A more solid constitutionalist, Sen. Rand Paul (FI score, 100 percent), also expressed dissatisfaction with the federal government’s display of armed force during the Bundy confrontation.

After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told Reno TV station KNRV that the standoff was not yet over and, “We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over,” Paul countered with a statement of his own in a radio interview with WHAS in 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 continued by saying that the disputed land should be returned to local control and recommended that the issue be settled in court. “Can everybody decide what the law is on their own? No, there has to be a legal process,” said Paul. “But I think there is definitely a philosophic debate over who should own the land."

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