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 WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (R.I.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Restless progressives eye 2024 Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run MORE (Mass.) and Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySenators seek to curb counterfeit toys and goods sold online Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Pledged money not going to Indigenous causes 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.