By Mario Trujillo - 04/18/14 10:43 AM EDT
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) needs to cool his rhetoric about the cattle grazing dispute in Nevada.
Paul, a potential 2016 candidate for president, said Reid's assertion that a rancher and his supporters are "domestic terrorists" could inflame tensions.
Reid blasted the rancher, Cliven Bundy, and his supporters Thursday for bringing guns and children to his ranch.
Bundy has drawn an outpouring of support in his two-decade-long dispute with the government over grazing fees that were put in place in 1993. The government began to seize his cattle over the unpaid fees, which now amount to more than $1 million.
The Bureau of Land Management said it would continue to try to solve the situation “administratively and judicially" after ceasing the roundup over the weekend over safety concerns.
"This is a real, I think, intellectual and constitutional and legal debate, but it shouldn't be about violence of arms, and I hope that the government will not be there in full arms and provoke a showdown and something terrible will happen," he said. "I hope that doesn't happen."
Paul said he would like to see the state of Nevada in charge of the public land instead of the federal government, asserting "nobody in Washington really know anything about ranching or grazing of cattle or the long history that's gone on with this."
Paul, one of the few potential presidential candidates to speak up on the issue, said he has legislation "in the hopper" that could help settle the dispute by giving states more control over federal land and the Endangered Species Act.