Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Monday he hopes to visit East Palestine, Ohio, “when the time is right” and that new Department of Transportation initiatives to improve rail safety in response to the Ohio derailment that released toxic chemicals into the environment.
But many, especially Republicans, are calling Buttigieg’s response ‘too little too late.’
And increasingly, Republicans are calling for Buttigieg’s impeachment.
“I am very interested in getting to know the residents of East Palestine, hearing from them about how they’ve been impacted and communicating with them about the steps that we’re taking,” Pete Buttigieg said Monday.
“But yes, when the time is right, I do plan to visit East Palestine. I don’t have a date for you right now.”
Buttigieg added that he is deferring to the National Safety Transportation Board, who usually take the lead after a major transportation disaster.
Buttigieg detailed DOT rail safety improvement efforts in a letter to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw, which called for increased regulation and increased accountability.
“We are accelerating and augmenting our ongoing lines of effort on rail regulation and inspection here at the US DOT, including further regulation on high hazard flammable trains and electronically controlled pneumatic brakes – rules that were clawed back under the previous administration – to the full extent of that we are allowed to under current law and we will continue using resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to fund projects that improve rail safety,” Buttigieg said.
How’s that for a politician’s answer? Blame the opposition. Cite the legislation your side passed. Nice.
Republicans Respond to Pete Buttigieg
But Buttigieg isn’t the only one making the Ohio train derailment political.
Increasingly, the GOP is eyeing Buttigieg as a vulnerable target – perhaps an impeachment target.
“The disaster, which came just months after a series of embarrassing air travel issues that snarled plans for millions of Americans, is prompting renewed scrutiny of [Buttigieg’s] tenure atop the department,” The Hill reported.
Democrats are quick to point out that the scrutiny on Buttigieg isn’t not simply about a couple of transportation-related mishaps. “Before, if you got your flight delayed, you weren’t like ‘oh that damn Elain Chao,” one Democratic operative told The Hill. “That’s the downside that comes with being such a good public figure.”
That’s a fair point. Buttigieg is maybe the most high-profile Transportation Secretary ever. He ran a surprisingly strong campaign for president in 2020, ultimately falling short, but raising his public profile immensely (remember, he was the mayor of South Bend, Indiana (population barely six figures) before running for president).
With the Democrat’s currently short bench of talent, Buttigieg is regarded as one of the more important future prospects. Naturally, with such a high-profile comes inherent scrutiny. Still, Buttigieg’s tenure leading the DOT has not gone smoothly. And Republicans are ratcheting up the criticism.
“I hope [Buttigieg] does resign,” Representative Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) told Real America’s Voice. “I never would have thought we’d see a point where we need to impeach a Secretary of Transportation, but daggon, how many failures have to happen on his watch before we call it?”
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.