Hill Republicans are increasingly expressing their concerns with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
Senator Capito told The Hill that Buttigieg had a “push” to make everything “climate and politically correct.”
The Department of Transportation has defended Buttigieg’s performance in dealing with recent crises.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has made it his mission to defend President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, traveling to various locations around the country to tout major projects that have gotten off the ground thanks to the legislation.
But he has also faced a series of major crises, including a Southwest Airlines system failure that affected about 2 million travelers in late December, a Federal Aviation Administration system failure that wreaked havoc on flights in January, and a train derailment in February in East Palestine, Ohio, which resulted in toxic chemicals being released into the air.
Buttigieg has tried to reassure Americans that his department is working closely with officials and lawmakers regarding each of the respective incidents, but many Republicans in Congress have so far been unfazed by his job performance. GOP lawmakers have expressed displeasure with what they believe is a reach that is insufficient compared to other members of Biden’s cabinet.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, representing a state with vast rural areas and critical infrastructure needs, told The Hill that Buttigieg’s “philosophical drive to make everything climate and politically correct” is central to the issues raised by Republican lawmakers . .
“We have practical things that we have to do, like allowing and building new roads and having new construction and he pretty much puts his foot on a lot of those things,” she told the publication. “He’s just not leading and I think that’s the frustration.”
South Dakota Senate Minority Whip John Thune told The Hill that Buttigieg’s leadership style was not as “hands-on” as other Biden officials.
“I feel like he, like many others in the administration, are not the kind of hands-on managers you need at a time like this,” the senator said. “I think part of it is also just the effort he puts in. … Some members of the cabinet, particularly in the relevant committees, the jurisdiction committees, are doing a really good job and I’m not getting that from him.”
Other Republican lawmakers, most notably Texas Senator Ted Cruz, have criticized Buttigieg for what they say was his lack of visibility immediately after the derailment in eastern Palestine.
“I understand that the secretary is politically ambitious, and he would like to move into government housing in Washington down the street, but he does have work to do,” Cruz told reporters last week, referring to Buttigieg being expected to lead one day again for the presidency. (Buttigieg ran for president in 2020 and performed strongly in Iowa and New Hampshire before faltering in South Carolina and leaving the race.)
Representative Warren Davidson of Ohio during a recent appearance on Real America’s Voice suggested Buttigieg over his reaction to the train derailment.
“I hope he steps down, and if he doesn’t, there’s a long list of impeachment criteria,” Davidson told the outlet.
Democrats argue that criticism of Buttigieg is purely political.
“In the old days, when your flight was delayed, you didn’t think, ‘oh damn Elaine Chao,'” one Democratic operative told The Hill, referring to former President Donald Trump’s secretary of transportation. “That’s the downside of being such a good public figure.”
The Department of Transportation stood by its response while working with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Environmental Protection Agency, noting that the department and staff were “on scene hours after the derailment” to assist the NTSB in their research.
“It comes as no surprise that every crisis has some politics at play, even something as serious as the impact of a global pandemic on our transportation systems or a train derailment,” a Transport Ministry spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the secretary maintained a “focus on getting results.”
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