Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson appeared to be shouldering a heavy burden as she faced hours of hostile questioning from newly empowered Republicans who are vowing to stop her agency in its tracks on new global warming regulations.
Though new Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton jokingly referred to her new “parking spot” at the Rayburn House Office Building (where the GOP plans to hold many hearings with Jackson as their star witness), the joke fell flat with Jackson, who seemed more than anything to want out.
For example, Rep. John Shimkus, Illinois Republican, asked Jackson point-blank if she believed in the economic precept of supply and demand.
“Do I believe in supply and demand?” she asked incredulously. The back-and-forth was one of many times Jackson restated the questions of her Republican tormentors for effect. Another lawmaker, freshman Rep. Mike Pompeo, Kansas Republican, later blasted Jackson for “making light” of Shimkus’s question.
Tuesday’s hearing was the first time Republicans have held court on the energy panel with Jackson as their witness since the GOP took power following the midterm elections on Nov. 2.
Upton and other Republicans have vowed to bring Jackson before the committee repeatedly.
In terms of substance, the hearing was mostly a rhetorical jousting match in which Republicans lobbed their best talking points at Jackson, who showed a penchant for feisty retorts as she explained complicated regulatory principles to GOP lawmakers, many of whom were freshman legislators in one of their first hearings.
In Jackson’s defense, the Republican inquisitors did show lapses of understanding of the complicated workings of new regulations Jackson is sprinting to finalize to combat global warming with an EPA-only approach.
For instance, Upton conflated the number of new EPA enforcement agents that will be needed with optimistic estimates about the number of private sector jobs in pollution control industries that would be created by new regulations as companies scramble to follow the rules.
“I don’t know what net increase in inspectors you’re speaking of,” said Jackson, “None of the jobs numbers are public sector employment.”
Chairman Upton got the last word, though, again referring in defiance of Jackson to new EPA inspectors as the locus of any job growth as a result of the regulations, perhaps a sign of who was boss at the Rayburn building.
Democrats meanwhile, took rhetorical shots at the GOP, for instance with Rep. Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, comparing Republican legislation to rein in the EPA to George Orwell’s “1984″ and blasting the “Republican thought police.”
The former chairman of the panel, Rep. Henry Waxman, also won a testy skirmish when Sen. James Inhofe was testifying.