The tipoff, of course, was the title of the hearing – Making EPA Great Again. It’s a wonder that Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Science, Space & Technology, and his fellow Republicans, had the foresight to slip their red #MAGA ball caps under their desks before the cameras went hot. And the GOP majority should just drop Science from their name right now, given the direction they’re heading.
The last time, this group met to entertain such questions was last June, months before the Republicans got all the lollypops and unfettered leave to make up their own facts with near impunity. But yesterday, the Republican majority stacked the hearing with industry-affiliated witnesses to trot out their credentials and dutifully report what their industries pay them to say. It went downhill from the start, when Smith – this guy – said that the EPA during Obama’s term had proposed a political agenda rather than a scientific one. Trump’s new administration is an opportunity to “right the ship of the EPA and steer it in the right direction,” so said Smith. Ranking Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson (also of Texas) was distressed by the industry ties of Republican witnesses – coal industry lobbyist Jeffrey Holmstead, who played a key role in George W. Bush administration’s efforts to roll back clean air and climate change protections, Kimberly White of the American Chemistry Council, a group representing chemical manufacturers, and Richard Belzer, an independent industry consultant. The fourth witness, however, was called by the Democrats was Dr. Rush Holt, physicist and CEO of American Association for the Advancement of Science. New Jersey’s old congressman, and my old boss. A little grayer, no less sharp. The common sense portion of the hearing fell to him, to talk about the successful policies of the EPA as we’ve known it, presumably before the Trump administration does its damage. And how its policies have worked because the are based on sound science. “Science,” he reminds a roomful of Republicans who were surely not paying attention, “is not a political construct.”
Skip ahead to 23:35 in the video for the start of the hearing (everything before that is dead air). And skip ahead to 43:00 if you just want to hear Holt: