Natural Resources Democrats again rebuff Republican complaints about virtual meetings

Natural Resources Democrats again rebuff Republican complaints about virtual meetings
© Greg Nash

Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee are again rejecting a complaint by their Republican counterparts over their use of virtual hearings. 

Republicans in the lower chamber have expressed repeated opposition to virtual hearings and meetings. 

A recent letter led by Rep. Bruce WestermanBruce Eugene WestermanInterior stresses 'showing up for work' after Grijalva tests positive for coronavirus Tuberville breaks DC self-quarantine policy to campaign Natural Resources Democrats again rebuff Republican complaints about virtual meetings MORE (R-Ark.) and signed by others on the Natural Resources panel specifically targeted virtual events held by the Democrats that have been labeled  “NRDems Forum” on the committee’s page, calling them “deliberately misleading.”

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Pushing back on Westerman’s letter on Monday, committee Democrats wrote that the events have been “consistently” labeled as Democratic events and contrasted this with Committee Republicans’ “@NatResources” Twitter handle, which they called “potentially confusing.”

The Democrats also addressed a Republican gripe that these forums were too partisan, noting that party members were invited to participate in meetings on certain bipartisan topics. 

“Those invitations were rejected in the strongest possible terms,” the letter said, also adding that Republicans can hold meetings on events they are interested in.  

“The concerns expressed in your letter would be more credible if committee Republicans had not attempted to derail official hearings as well. Every Republican participating in our June 11 hearing on the ongoing fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico voted to adjourn before allowing the witnesses to testify,” they added. “It appears the minority is less concerned about the distinctions between forums and hearings, and more interested in obstructionism for its own sake.”

Asked for comment on the Democratic letter, Westerman told The Hill in a statement that “it’s unfortunate that he won’t be taking any action to correct these issues.”

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“Splitting hairs over what the majority’s YouTube and Twitter channels are called does not negate the fact that they’ve used official committee broadcast equipment for decidedly partisan events,” the congressman added. 

Republican committee spokesman Austin Hacker also addressed the Twitter handle issue in a statement to The Hill, saying that Republicans edited their display name and image to show that they were Republicans.

"Instead of wasting taxpayer resources to talk about Twitter handles, committee Democrats should be focused on working with us to solve actual problems," Hacker said.

Committee Republicans have previously expressed opposition to the hearings, with ranking member Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopTrump signs major conservation bill into law Overnight Energy: House passes major conservation bill, sending to Trump | EPA finalizes rule to speed up review of industry permits House passes major conservation bill, sending it to Trump's desk MORE (Utah) writing in April that Democrats “appear to use the circumstances of a crisis to circumvent transparency and avoid opposing viewpoints.”

Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) wrote at the time that there is “nothing inappropriate or even unusual about the events we have held” and said the committee would continue to do so.