Senate Democrats push DeVos on climate change statement

Senate Democrats push DeVos on climate change statement
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Four Senate Democrats are criticizing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for her comments on President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal. 

In a Wednesday letter to DeVos, the Democrats point to a statement last Thursday in which she praised Trump’s decision as an “example of his commitment to rolling back the unrealistic and overreaching regulatory actions by the previous administration.” 

That statement, the Democrats said, was her first comment on an administration decision that does not involve the Education Department. They called it an “about-face” from January, when she said during her confirmation hearing that the Education Department doesn’t have jurisdiction over climate issues and committed to deferring to other agencies on the issue. 

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“Between January and last week, you apparently decided to present your views on an issue over which your department ‘does not have any jurisdiction,’” Democratic Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDem senator: 'How many lives must be lost before we act?' Sen. Manchin won’t vote for Trump’s mine safety nominee Overnight Regulation: SEC chief grilled over hack | Dems urge Labor chief to keep Obama overtime rule | Russia threatens Facebook over data storage law MORE (R.I.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOvernight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank's progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget 'out of whack' | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Michelle Obama is exactly who the Democrats need to win big in 2020 Wells Fargo chief defends bank's progress in tense Senate hearing MORE (Mass.) and Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDems lambaste Trump’s ‘outrageous’ EPA chemical safety pick Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Dem senator pitches ideas for gun control after shooting MORE (Mass.) wrote. 

“In doing so, you landed squarely on the side that argues, incorrectly, that climate change science is not settled.”

The lawmakers also asked DeVos if she or any administration official has had any contact with the Heartland Institute, a think tank that questions climate change and has sent climate-doubting literature to schools aimed at influencing their science curriculum.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal garnered statements from federal agencies not typically associated with environmental or energy policy. 

Besides the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior and Energy departments, DeVos and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson also praised the decision. 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a Paris deal supporter whose department would oversee the transition out of the deal, did not put out a statement or attend the White House announcement about withdrawing from the agreement. He spoke about it briefly with reporters the next day.