Dem senator slams White House over Volkswagen emissions scandal

Dem senator slams White House over Volkswagen emissions scandal
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A Democratic senator says the Obama administration is to blame for a string of auto industry scandals, including recent revelations that Volkswagen has been circumventing federal air pollutant emission standards.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has accused the German automaker of selling about 482,000 vehicles since 2008 that violate the Clean Air Act due to software installed on the vehicles that activates required air pollution protections only during emissions tests.

Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonOvernight Health Care: Ryan's office warns he wasn't part of ObamaCare deal | House conservatives push for mandate repeal in final tax bill | Dem wants probe into CVS-Aetna merger Ryan's office warning he wasn't part of deal on ObamaCare: source Overnight Health Care: Funding bill could provide help for children's health program | Questions for CVS-Aetna deal | Collins doubles funding ask for ObamaCare bill MORE (D-Fla.) said Monday the Volkswagen scandal, along with recall problems at other companies including General Motors and Takata, show there is a big problem with the Obama administration's oversight of the U.S. auto industry. 

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"Where are our U.S. regulatory agencies?" he asked in a speech on the Senate floor about the recent auto industry problems. 

"What is the Obama administration doing about this in its regulatory agencies?" Nelson continued. "Why are they not dropping the hammer on corporations and corporate executives that are purposely deceiving the American people about faulty automobile products that cause the loss of lives and property?" 

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also weighed in Tuesday, though she focused more on Volkswagen's role. 

"Outrageous. When companies put profits ahead of safety and the environment, there should be consequences," Clinton wrote from her campaign Twitter  account. 

Highway regulators in the Obama administration have come under fire in recent months for their handling of recalls involving defective airbags  manufactured by Japanese company Takata and faulty ignition switches found in General Motors cars. 

In both cases, officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) were accused of failing to notice trends of accidents involving faulty parts. 

The EPA has said Volkswagen could face up to an $18 billion fine for its pollution violations.

Nelson said Tuesday that he is not satisfied with the Obama administration's response. 

"I lay this not only on the corporate culture, I lay it at the feet of the US regulatory agencies who ought to be doing their job, ought to be doing it in a forceful way, and then there ought to be some prosecutions and corporate executives that knew this and have done it ought to be going to jail," he said.

The Florida senator added that "it is an outrage that VW would take advantage of its consumers by purposely deceiving them on their mileage on diesel vehicles."

"What in the world is happening to the American automobile industry and those foreign manufacturers that are selling automobiles here to take advantage of the American automobile-consuming public?" Nelson asked. 

"Has the corporate culture in what is an automobile society sunk so low that we can't be up front when our products are defective or when we are trying to gain competitive advantage?"