Buttigieg smacks down House Oversight chair after he announces probe into train derailment response

Buttigieg smacks down House Oversight chair after he announces probe into train derailment response
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Image via Shutterstock

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg embarrassed House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer Friday evening after he published a letter launching an investigation into the Transportation Secretary in the wake of the Norfolk Southerntoxic train derailment. The investigation notably is not into Norfolk Southern or the Dept. of Transportation itself, but into Secretary Buttigieg’s handling of the derailment.

"This incident is an environmental and public health emergency that now threatens Americans across state lines," Chairman Comer writes. “Despite the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) responsibility to ensure safe and reliable transport in the United States, you ignored the catastrophe for over a week," he claims. “DOT needs to provide an explanation for its leadership’s apathy in the face of this emergency.”

"The fallout from the Ohio train derailment continues to develop. DOT’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a preliminary report on February 23, 2023, which stopped short of declaring a concrete cause of the derailment,” Comer added, which is also false, as the Transportation Secretary pointed out in a tweet.

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"I am alarmed to learn that the Chair of the House Oversight Committee thinks that the NTSB is part of our Department," Buttigieg said. “NTSB is independent (and with good reason). Still, of course, we will fully review this and respond appropriately.”

The investigation will also focus on the Biden administration’s massive – and bipartisan – infrastructure bill, which the President signed into law in late 2021. Infrastructure projects typically take years to be approved and completed. And yet Chairman Comer appeared to suggest the President’s infrastructure package should have prevented the train’s derailment – suggesting a lack of understanding of basic governmental processes.

"Under your leadership, DOT supported President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill, which included billions of dollars devoted to revamping America’s railways in an effort to make them safer and more efficient. Yet America now faces one of transportation’s largest failures, even while DOT seems to not lack available funding. In America, over 1,000 trains derail every year."

Comer’s letter is signed by 21 Republicans, but noticeably absent is the signature of the Oversight Committee’s Ranking Member, Democrat Jamie Raskin. It appears Raskin was not a part of the decision to send the letter.

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