Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) used a congressional hearing on Wednesday to air criticisms of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg‘s response to the Norfolk Southern train derailment disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, early last month.
The Texas Republican argued how a “delayed and disjointed response by the Biden administration” has not allayed the concerns of local residents terrified by the health and environmental threats posed by the so-called controlled burn of toxic chemicals that spilled out of tanker cars.
“It took Secretary Buttigieg 10 days to even acknowledge the derailment,” Cruz said. “After he was called out, he did a 180 and tried to sell a slew of big government regulatory proposals, desperate to disguise the failure of the administration to act sooner.”
It took 10 days for Pete Buttigieg to even acknowledge the East Palestine derailment.
And when he finally said something, he only tried to distract from his own failures and push regulations which have little to no connection to the East Palestine derailment. pic.twitter.com/1YtTGJtW0T
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) March 22, 2023
Blunders followed, according to Cruz, who cited the secretary’s mention of a particular withdrawn brake rule as an example of why the Transportation Department faced “constraints.” Illustrating the problem with that comment, Cruz pointed out, was that the Biden administration’s own chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Jennifer Homendy, had to then go and explain how it was “FALSE” to say it would have prevented the East Palestine derailment.
“Undeterred, Secretary Buttigieg then released a laundry list of regulatory proposals, many of which had little to no connection to the East Palestine derailment,” Cruz added.
“In an effort to further distract from his own failed response, Secretary Buttigieg has suggested that President Trump was responsible for the derailment in East Palestine,” the senator said.
“I know that’s a frequent playbook of this administration, blaming every problem on President Trump, but not even The Washington Post fact-checker who usually goes out of his way to back Democrat claims, bought this claim,” Cruz continued before citing a passage from the publication’s analysis.
The remarks were made during a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation focused on improving rail safety following the East Palestine incident. Cruz is the ranking member of the panel.
Buttigieg has called not speaking out sooner about the train derailment a “lesson learned” for himself. “I was focused on just making sure that our folks on the ground were all set, but could have spoken sooner about how strongly I felt about this incident,” he told CBS News.
The secretary travelled the site in late February, but only after former President Donald Trump paid a visit a day earlier.
At the conclusion of his opening remarks on Wednesday, Cruz lauded two of the witnesses, Sens. J.D. Vance and Sherrod Brown, a Republican and Democrat from Ohio, respectively, for their efforts to bring attention to helping people affected by the derailment.
“I look forward to continuing to work closely with both of you and with the chairwoman on a bipartisan, serious rail safety package,” Cruz concluded.