Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called for Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to resign following the mishandling of the Ohio train derailment disaster, Fox News reported. The subsequent chemical spill and controlled burn have residents of East Palestine, Ohio, concerned for their health, with Buttigieg nowhere to be found.
On Feb. 3, a Norfolk Southern carrying vinyl chloride jumped the tracks. Ten of its 50 cars carried the hazardous substance, and authorities dealt with it by creating a controlled burn that sent a plume of thick black smoke high into the atmosphere.
A spokesperson from the Department of Transportation said that staff was on the ground "within minutes of the derailment" and that the Environmental Protection Agency also had representatives. Still, as this disaster continues to unfold, Buttigieg hasn't visited the scene.
Rubio believes Buttigieg has shown himself to be unfit for his position after this crisis. In a letter to President Joe Biden Wednesday, Rubio said that Buttigieg has "downplayed and ignored crisis after crisis" while focusing on "topics of little relevance to our nation's transportation system."
"At no time has that been more apparent than the past two weeks," Rubio said. "Secretary Buttigieg refused to acknowledge the disaster in East Palestine, Ohio until his intentional ignorance was no longer tenable."
"Even after acknowledging the tragedy, he continues to deflect any accountability for the safety of our nation's rail system," Rubio continued. "The circumstances leading up to the derailment point to a clear lack of oversight and demand engagement by our nation's top transportation official."
Rubio said this is not an isolated incident but rather "part of a two-year long pattern" of inaction. "During historic maritime and surface transportation disruptions in 2021, Secretary Buttigieg was completely absent," Rubio continued.
"Amidst an impending possible rail strike last year, Secretary Buttigieg left the country to vacation in Portuguese wine country," Rubio said. "Near misses in commercial aviation, as well as recent system failures, including the one that shut down air travel in Florida in January, indicate that serious and persistent problems across the DOT are not being sufficiently remedied," Rubio said.
He continued to slam Buttigieg for "chartering private jets" at taxpayers' expense over the amount outlined in travel regulations for federal employees. "Secretary Buttigieg is also alleged to have used government aircraft for travel that may be political in nature," Rubio said, adding that officials must be "held to the same standards regardless of their political affiliation."
"For two years, the transparency and accountability that you promised to obsessively uphold during your inauguration has been nowhere to be found," Rubio said. "The incompetence and failure within your administration cannot continue to be ignored when Americans’ health and safety are at risk," he added.
"I hope you will change course in order to uphold your so-far-unmet promise to the American people by requesting the immediate resignation of Secretary Buttigieg," Rubio concluded. Instead of taking responsibility, Buttigieg seemed to blame former President Donald Trump's administration for the current disaster.
The questions surrounding how the crash occurred will likely remain unanswered until a full investigation is completed. Still, Buttigieg blamed Trump because a regulation requiring pneumatic brakes for trains with hazardous cargo was withdrawn in 2018.
"We’re constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using the powers we do have to keep people safe," Buttigieg explained in a tweet. That doesn't do anything to explain his inaction now.
Buttigieg, who couldn't even fill potholes as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is in way over his head. Biden needs to replace him with someone who is competent and experienced before anything else happens.