I was surprised and disappointed the nomination of Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s pick to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), was not stopped.
Sunstein, a Harvard law professor and now “regulatory czar,” has said some pretty nutty things during his career such as “Animals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives.” And “We must ban hunting altogether, at least if its sole purpose is human recreation.” Not only is Sunstein an avowed anti-hunter, past statements clearly indicated he does not believe the second amendment applies to individuals. And these are not positions Sunstein declared during some college frat house party. They are things he has written or said in the last 10 years.
Here’s how it went down. On Sept. 9, the U.S. Senate voted to end debate on Sunstein’s nomination despite efforts of Senator Johnny Isakson (R- GA) to place a “hold” on the nomination. That essentially made Sunstein’s formal confirmation a done deal. Here’s the kicker. It would have taken 40 votes to prevent the confirmation on Sept. 9 and opponents of Sunstein had 35. For the formal confirmation vote Sept. 10, 50 no votes were needed. Sunstein was confirmed in a 57 to 40 vote.
Even more shocking was the press release from the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance stating “Of the 63 senators who voted in favor of Sunstein, 22 were members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.” So while sportsmen came within five votes of stopping Sunstein’s nomination, 42 percent of the senators who voted in favor of this anti-hunter/animal rights activist were members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.
Here’s a little meat and potatoes about the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. Established in 1989, the CSC prides itself on being one of the largest and most active caucuses in the U.S. Congress. Comprised of republicans and democrats representing nearly every state, its sole purpose is to preserve and strengthen the rights of hunters and anglers.
I knew there had to be more to this story so I called Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, which serves to provide access and a voice for sportsmen and women in the U.S. Congress, the Administration and federal land management agencies. It bears saying the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation, despite the obvious similarity in names, does not police the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. Rather the Caucus sets its own rules.
First, Jeff was adamant CSF did not support the Sunstein nomination. However, he explained in Washington, D. C. you have to pick your political fights, and this was one battle sportsmen were sure to lose according to senators from both sides of the aisle. The writing was on the wall when former Sportsmen’s Caucus leaders Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) recently lifted their holds after Sunstein pledged in writing he wouldn’t use the position as a platform to advance his radical animal rights views. In a letter, Sunstein even went so far as to say the Second Amendment does protect the right of individuals to bear arms.
In addition, it was felt the position of “regulatory czar” posed little threat to sportsmen and women. Jeff said if Sunstein had been a candidate for Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, or Director of Fish and Wildlife Service, there would have been a huge push to prevent that nomination.
While I know more about the situation, this digging has left me with more questions than answers.
If more conservation organizations and sportsmen’s groups had joined U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the National Wild Turkey Federation and others, would the outcome have been different? Could they have gained the needed five votes, especially from the 22 Sportsmen’s Caucus members who voted to end the debate on Sunstein’s nomination?
Is the job of “regulatory czar” so awesome it caused Sunstein to renounce his long-held views on the second amendment?
Will Sunstein’s role as overseer of federal regulations affect sportsmen and women particularly as it pertains to the Departments of Interior and Agriculture?
Can we believe Sunstein’s “pinky promise” that he will use his position for good instead of evil?
Should senators in the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus be held accountable for their votes?
There are a couple of things I am sure about. First, I don’t like the fact Cass Sunstein wields any amount of federal regulatory power. And second, when push comes to shove, we the voters hold the cards, and I don’t mean just when we enter the voting booth. You can let your senators know right now how you feel about their votes. I’m lucky, I can write letters thanking South Carolina Senators Jim DeMint and Lindsay Graham because they stood with sportsmen and voted no against Sunstein. Remember, the thanking is just as important as the letters that chastise. Either way, you’re making your stances as a sportsman or sportswoman known to your elected officials.
You can visit this link for a full list on how senators voted to end the debate on Sunstein: http://www.ussportsmen.org/Document.Doc?id=116