Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Update on EPA cargate scandal: Bush offers up two EPA staffers (without counsel) for Waxman interviews

There was a lot of obvious activity last week in the Senate as Senator Boxer’s committee attempted to grill EPA Administrator Steve Johnson on the cargate scandal. (The questioning, by the way, was not particularly sharp. I don’t recall that anyone asked the most obvious question to Stonewall Steve: who within the EPA recommended that you reject California’s request to enforce its greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles? Name that person.)

Meanwhile, however, the investigation is proceeding more quietly, and perhaps more effectively, in the House.

This morning, Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced that the Bush administration is bending – at least slightly – in response to Waxman’s own investigation of this scandal.

You may recall that Waxman earlier said he wanted his committee staff to interview seven EPA staffers without the presence of Bush administration lawyers, who would be expected to try muddling up the interview process.

The Bush administration has been balking at producing these witnesses without government lawyers present. And so Waxman was preparing to have his committee vote to issue formal subpoenas to the seven EPA staffers. (I suspect he could win such a vote pretty easily.)

At a committee meeting this morning, however, Waxman said he was postponing a vote on subpoenas for now – because the Bush administration has agreed to permit two of the seven EPA staffers to be interviewed without lawyers present. The fate of the other five EPA staffers apparently remains under negotiation.

This is a little like peeling away layers of a foul smelling onion. The stench at the center really is enough to make one cry.

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