Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bush Administration Officials Boycott of Senate Hearing Disgraceful

Yesterday, an incredible thing happened, demonstrating yet again the Bush administration’s complete contempt for the American public.

As I arrived about 15 minutes before the Senate Environment and Public Work Committee’s hearing on Bush’s environmental record, there was noticeable electricity in the air as everyone waited in line for the hearing room to be open. I heard people buzzing about “no-shows” and spotted our board member Susan Holmes from EarthJustice (an ESC member group) in line.

Susan told me what was up. Incredibly, both the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency were actually boycotting the hearing. Both had pulled out of testifying at the very last minute. I had never heard of such a thing. And to add to the drama, Senator James Inhofe (OK)—who thinks that human caused global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the environmental community—opposed the hearing, forcing the Senate to suspend its session (in the middle of dealing with the financial crisis) in order to allow the hearing to proceed.

The hearing did proceed, with Senator Barbara Boxer (CA), Chair of the Committee clearly outraged at the administration’s conduct. Senator Boxer called the administration “cowardly.”

Having to answer for their environmental record should make the Bush administration scared. Real advances in protecting our environment have been few and far between. Adding to their concern, no doubt, was the fact that in the hearing the day before, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) caught the Environmental Protection Agency in a serious lie. So, Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Lyle Laverty got away without having to defend the Bush Extinction Plan.

In response to their boycott, Senator Boxer said, “This is serious stuff. When you don't show up you are not fulfilling your constitutional obligation.” And, Jamie Rappaport Clark, the former head of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and current Executive Vice President of Defenders of Wildlife (an ESC member group), echoed that sentiment when she spoke eloquently during her testimony about the obligation of testifying before Congress.

It is high time for the Bush administration to start taking the law seriously.

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