Interior stresses 'showing up for work' after Grijalva tests positive for coronavirus

Interior stresses 'showing up for work' after Grijalva tests positive for coronavirus
© Greg Nash

The Interior Department took a shot at the Democratic chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee in a statement wishing him a speedy recovery from COVID-19.

“We wish Chairman [Raúl] Grijalva a speedy recovery. He’s paid a lot of money by the American people to be an elected official – a job he sought and was entrusted to uphold – and showing up for work like millions of other dedicated public servants, such as our law enforcement officers and firefighters, is true leadership,” Interior said in a statement.

Interior and Grijalva have repeatedly feuded, and the statement underscored the department's insistence that hearings should be in person and not remotely, even during the pandemic.

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Grijalva announced over the weekend that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

He got the test after spending time last week with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) during a hearing to examine Park Police’s response to protests over the death of George Floyd. Gohmert, who regularly did not wear a mask on Capitol Hill, said he had tested positive last week.

"While I cannot blame anyone directly for this, this week has shown that there are some Members of Congress who fail to take this crisis seriously," Grijalva said in a statement over the weekend.

As Interior and Grijavla have sparred over Park Police actions clearing the streets of protesters near Lafayette Square on June 1, the agency has repeatedly called for in-person meetings while Grijalva has spent the majority of the pandemic in Arizona. 

The agency only agreed to show up for last week’s hearing if it was held in person. 

That also follows an agency invitation to Grijalva to meet in person with officers injured in the June 1 protests.

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“We can socially distance and have a great meeting. I had a great commercial flight from AZ to DC a few weeks ago. It’s an easy trip, so I look forward to visiting,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt tweeted shortly after the protests.

The committee majority responded on Twitter asking why Bernhardt would want to meet with injured officers in person.

Much of the committee’s work before last week’s hearing had taken place virtually, with hearings broadcast online.

But that also turned into a point of contention, as committee Republicans opposed the Democrat-only roundtables.

Committee Republicans in mid-June called on Grijalva to cease the forums, calling them “deliberately misleading.”

“The ongoing use and operation of the committee’s broadcast systems is neither fair, nor bipartisan,” they wrote in a letter spearheaded by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.).

“These meetings, which have taken place without Minority involvement, are strictly partisan in nature. With titles such as 'Behind the Curtain: The Trump Administration's Fossil Fuel Agenda During the Pandemic,' Minority members and staff have not been given the opportunity to participate in the planning or execution of these meetings, much less offer a witness or prepare members,” the letter continued.

Grijalva argued at the time that there is “nothing inappropriate or even unusual about the events we have held” and encouraged Republicans to arrange roundtable discussions of your own, which are authorized under current House and committee rules,” he said.