A Top Priority For Democrats If They Take The House? Going After Ryan Zinke

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor
  • Democrats are optimistic they will take control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections.
  • Lawmakers plan on investigating Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
  • Democrats also want to push green energy policies and a carbon tax.

House Democrats poised to take the gavel on key committees should a blue wave materialize in November are already laying out their top priorities for 2019.

Two of their top priorities? Global warming and going after Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. (RELATED: Scientists Throw Cold Water On Claims Linking Hurricane Florence To Global Warming)

“Zinke is one of the most ethically challenged members of the Cabinet and maybe one of the most ethically challenged secretaries of the Interior we’ve had in living memory,” said Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, who would take control of the Subcommittee on Government Operations should Democrats take the House.

Connolly told Politico Pro there’s “rich material here to look into his behavior and his fitness for continued service in the office.” A blue wave in the fall could be enough to give Democrats control of the House for the first time since 2010.

Democrats and environmental activists seem to be giving Zinke the Pruitt treatment. Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned in July amid a wave of ethics and spending scandals that piled up as he headed the agency.

Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva is in line to chair the House Committee on Natural Resources in the event of a blue wave in November. Grijalva has been a staunch critic of Zinke and would likely hold numerous hearings on “wasted resources” at the Interior Department. In a series of blog posts, committee Democrats attacked Zinke’s policies, use of a chartered flight and supposedly shady property deal in Montana.

“The Republican majority has ignored the fact that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is the most ethically challenged member of the Trump administration ,” committee Democrats wrote in a Medium blog post.

The committee Democrats said Republicans “haven’t held any oversight hearings on his tenure, which has featured more than a dozen formal investigations by the DOI inspector general, the Office of Special Counsel and other watchdog agencies  —  and their only requests for Zinke documents are focused on what a great job he’s doing cleaning up the Department’s workforce.”

“In his 23 years of military service, and continued public service after that, Ryan Zinke has dealt with far more formidable opponents and never quit,” Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift told Politico Pro.

Democrats, indeed, seem optimistic about their chances of retaking the House, and some are already thinking about how they can use new majorities to refocus important committees.

“We’ll go back and do our job,” Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, told E&E News. “We’ll be dealing realistically with areas of the [tax] code that impact carbon.”

The Ways and Means committee has jurisdiction over the U.S. tax code, and Democrats are keen to use the committee’s powers to push subsidies for green energy and even a carbon tax.

“I think for the first time in years, once the Democrats take over the House, there will be serious consideration of that — at long last,” Michigan Democratic Rep. Sanders Levin said of a carbon tax.

Some Democrats see a carbon tax as a policy tool to get Republican lawmakers on board with climate policies. Democratic lawmakers have introduced their own carbon tax bills, but the one that’s gotten the most attention is Florida GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s.

Curbelo introduced carbon tax legislation in July. The bill dropped days after the House passed a resolution opposed to a carbon tax that was introduced by Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise. All but six Republicans voted in support for Scalise’s bill.

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