Senator urges hearing on Bundy ranch dispute

 

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) on Friday called for a Senate hearing into the dispute between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over cattle grazing.

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Heller described as "patriots" the people who came armed to Bundy’s ranch after the BLM began to seize his cattle for refusing to pay grazing fees and fines that now total more than $1 million. 

Heller debated the ranch standoff on a Nevada television station with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has called the armed Bundy supporters “domestic terrorists.”

"What senator Reid may call domestic terrorists, I call patriots," Heller said. "We have a very different view on this." 

"If they are patriots, we are in trouble," Reid shot back. 

Reid blasted the supporters for showing up with assault weapons and boasting about putting children in the front of the pack.

Asked if he wanted to clarify his "domestic terrorist" remarks, Reid said he meant "just what I said."

Heller blamed the BLM for inciting the incident by bringing in armed officials to help roundup the cattle. He said he wants to know who gave that order. 

"I want to talk about the fact that they have this kind of authority and the ability to bully and come in with 200 armed men into a situation like this," he said. "I would like to have hearings. I would like to find out who is accountable for this.”

The BLM was acting on court orders to round up and remove the cattle from public land — a point Reid emphasized. Reid said the rancher does not recognize the federal government's authority, but said it is clear in the state constitution that the area in dispute is public land. 

"These characters walk around with their Constitution in their pocket. They should read the Nevada Constitution," Reid said. 

The Bureau of Land Management has said it would continue to try to solve the situation “administratively and judicially" after ceasing the roundup over the weekend over safety concerns.

Reid said it is unclear what happens next, but said he had talked to a number of federal and state officials about it. 

“We can speculate all we want to speculate about what is going to happen next,” he said. “I don't think it is going to be tomorrow that something is going to happen, but something will happen.”