Texans in Congress square off over global warming

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas
U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas Star-Telegram

At the U.S. House Science Committee, the relationship between Chairman Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, and ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, has gone from cordial but partisan to downright nasty.

The Texans are in a bitter dispute over Smith’s investigation of a science agency’s explanation of the “pause” in climate change, the apparent decline in the rate of global warming from 1998 to 2013 that government scientists say was based on faulty data.

In the most recent exchange of letters, Johnson objected to Smith’s subpoena of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for internal communications over climate change.

Johnson told Smith that “you never actually identified what it is you were claiming to investigate” and that his “aggressive” letters to NOAA amounted to accusing the agency of “engaging in climate science — i.e., doing their jobs.”

Smith fired back in a scorching response that Johnson had “blind allegiance to the administration” and that Congress had to be able to investigate the executive branch. “You have even personally attacked me and my staff,” said Smith. “This type of personal attack makes it clear that you have no interest in being a trusted partner in conducting oversight.”

Johnson’s reaction: “I am actually at a loss for words. The chairman’s letter is a gross mischaracterization of the oversight work on this committee and the minority’s role in those efforts.”

Local representation

Fort Worth gains a new voice in the state, now that Gov. Greg Abbott has named Mary Louise Albritton to Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Albritton, a Fort Worth philanthropist and community volunteer, will help the group support public programs in literature, philosophy, history and other humanities disciplines.

“These programs strengthen Texas communities by cultivating the knowledge and judgment that representative democracy demands of its citizens,” according to a statement from Abbott’s office.

Conflict of interest?

A controversial amendment to a transportation bill authored by U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, has prompted an inquiry by a public interest law group to the House ethics panels over rules on conflict of interest.

The amendment in the House-passed bill exempts loaners and rentals provided by auto dealers from a proposed law included in the Senate-passed bill forbidding the rental or loan of vehicles that are under recall.

The provision would still apply to rental car companies. Williams is a well-known Weatherford car dealer.

The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center questions whether House rules are clear regarding a conflict of interest and if Williams asked the House Ethics Committee for guidance. The amendment is part of a bill being negotiated by conference committee.

“We urge the Office of Congressional Ethics and the House Ethics Committee to review for compliance with House ethics rules and standards actions taken by Rep. Roger Williams during House consideration of the transportation reauthorization legislation during which he offered an amendment that would benefit his own business,” said the center’s executive director, J. Gerald Hebert, and policy director, Meredith McGehee, in a letter to the committees.

Williams recently responded to a question of whether there was a conflict of interest, noting there is no investigation against him.

“I chose to apply some common sense to legislation that specifically intended to further over regulate small businesses and increase burdens on Main Street while they are still trying to survive in this Obama economy,” Williams said.

Upcoming political dates

Candidates filing for a position on the 2016 ballot have until Dec. 14 to submit their paperwork.

Maria Recio, 202-383-6103

Twitter: @maria_e_recio

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley