Chairman: Obama 'Punked' the House by Holding Up Senate Bill So He Could Sign Order

A House Natural Resources subcommittee chairman is charging that President Obama delayed a Senate vote on a national monument designation so he could give the impression that he's moving stalled legislation by executive action.

A bill from Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) expanding the California Coastal National Monument to include more than 1,600 acres of Mendocino shoreline in the Point Arena-Stornetta Unit passed the House by voice vote last summer and was sitting in the Senate.

But Obama whipped out his pen today and used the 1906 Antiquities Act to declare the coastline protected land, proclaiming that he needed to use his executive authority to do so.

“In my State of the Union address, I said that I would use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations,” Obama said in a statement. “Our country is blessed with some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. It’s up to us to protect them, so our children’s children can experience them, too. That’s what today is about."

House Natural Resources Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), though, said today was about nothing but showmanship.

“The president’s use of the Antiquities Act to expand the Coastal California National Monument is disappointing to say the least. It is also purely political and undermines sincere efforts to reach consensus on questions of conservation," Bishop said.

"The House passed legislation to incorporate these public lands into the national monument with bipartisan support -- both at the committee level and on the House floor. The fact that this bill hasn’t yet been considered in the Senate is not an oversight, it was intentional. The legislation was held up in the Senate so the president could usurp the congressional process. In other words, the House was punked by the president."

Bishop stressed there was "no immediate urgency to make this a national monument," either.

"Had the Senate done its job, the bill would have been considered and passed under regular order. There was broad support for the measure," the congressman said. "The president seems to view the legislative process as relevant only when it is politically convenient. Unfortunately, that is not how our founding fathers intended for the federal government to operate."

"I am troubled by the way President Obama and Harry Reid misuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people. This only hurts our country as we move forward tackling some of the biggest issues facing the American people.”

The Point Arena-Stornetta Unit becomes the first shoreline addition to the California Coastal National Monument, established by President Clinton in 2000 to protect islands, rocks and reefs within 12 nautical miles of the Golden State’s shores.

It's not the first time Obama has used the Teddy Roosevelt-era law to bypass Congress, either: in 2012, he invoked the Antiquities Act to establish the César E. Chávez National Monument.

“Instead of using imperial powers, the President should pick up the phone and call upon Senate Democrats to take action," Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said. "The House has already passed legislation, sponsored by a California Democrat, to expand the California Coastal National Monument by adding these lands. There is no inherent danger to this area or compelling reason for the president to take unilateral action now."