OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
Sen. Ted Cruz wasted no time weighing into Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other officials on Wednesday during a hearing to discuss a series of crises involving air and rail travel and traffic, even going so far as to play a recreation of a terrifying near-miss involving two commercial aircraft.
During the Senate Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing last week, the Texas Republican had staffers play an animated video showing a frightening near-miss incident on Feb. 4 at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in the Texas capital, when a FedEx plane almost landed on top of a Southwest airliner filled with passengers and bound for Cancun, Mexico.
“If you were sitting on the Southwest flight and you knew how close you came to having a plane land on top of you, killing every person on that plane, you would understandably be horrified,” Cruz told acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Billy Nolen, during the heated hearing.
“And I would note that Secretary Buttigieg, in my view, instead of engaging in politics should be focused on the job he has now and addressing the various transportation crises we are seeing play out across the country,” Cruz added, according to the UK’s Daily Mail.
The hearing, titled, “Strengthening Airline Operations and Consumer Protections,” also examined Southwest Airline’s recent meltdown over the Christmas holidays during which hundreds of thousands of passengers were stranded.
“Notably absent from today’s meeting is Secretary Buttigieg,” Cruz said at the hearing, noting that Buttigieg skipped out.
“The DOT didn’t give any mea culpa to impacted travelers. The Biden DOT didn’t issue refunds, didn’t issue reimbursements, it just screwed up their flights and then proceeded to say, ‘We want to be in charge of how the airlines behave,’” he added.
Democrats on the panel also ripped into Buttigieg. “This sector needs a more effective policeman on the beat. They need someone over at the Department of Transportation who is going to get the job done,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), according to Fox News.
During opening remarks, Cruz took aim at Buttigieg again, accusing him of failing ‘to deliver any meaningful reform at the FAA. Although NOTAM modernization started a decade ago, this administration seems focused on semantics. Whether it’s replacing the term ‘mother’ with ‘birthing person,’ or creating a new checkbox on passports for people who claim to be neither a man nor woman, this administration’s desire to signal its virtue seems to know no limits.”
Sen. Ted Cruz blasts Pete Buttigieg: He has “failed to deliver any meaningful reform at the FAA. Although NOTAM modernization started a decade ago, this administration seems focused on semantics. Whether it’s replacing the term ‘mother’ with ‘birthing pic.twitter.com/y1Mves1hmV… https://t.co/UAT6EkJVbt
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) February 15, 2023
“It’s even infected the FAA. Instead of it focusing on safety, the FAA and DOT were working hard to change NOTAM’s name from ‘Notice to Airmen’ to ‘Notice to Air Missions.’ I would suggest instead the focus should have been on making sure the damned thing worked!”
In late December as the Southwest disaster was worsening, Nina Turner, who headed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, ripped Buttigieg over a series of transportation crises and failures under his watch: “What’s happening with the railroads, airlines & the supply chain is a result of a small city mayor being made the Secretary of Transportation as a means to pad his resume for President. Secretary Buttigieg is a prime example of failing up.”
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) also said at the time he was “not surprised” that Buttigieg “doesn’t know anything” because “that’s consistent with how he’s handled any kind of question or issue that we’ve had in our transportation sector since he became secretary.”
Meanwhile, Cruz sided with far-left Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) who called on Buttigieg to do more to address a growing crisis in rail travel after the horrific derailment of a chemical-carrying train near East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month that spewed dangerous and harmful chemicals over a wide area and into water systems that are now carrying the poisons downstream.
“East Palestine railroad derailment will have a significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the residents for decades and there is almost zero national media attention,” Omar tweeted. “We need Congressional inquiry and direct action from @PeteButtigieg to address this tragedy.”
East Palestine railroad derailment will have a significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the residents for decades and there is almost zero national media attention.
We need Congressional inquiry and direct action from @PeteButtigieg to address this tragedy. https://t.co/I42g4fXWsz
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 13, 2023
Cruz responded: “Fully agree.”
For his part, Buttigieg has issued a tepid statement regarding the derailment, saying he was “concerned” about it.
“I continue to be concerned about the impacts of the Feb 3 train derailment near East Palestine, OH, and the effects on families in the ten days since their lives were upended through no fault of their own,” he tweeted earlier this week.
I continue to be concerned about the impacts of the Feb 3 train derailment near East Palestine, OH, and the effects on families in the ten days since their lives were upended through no fault of their own. It’s important that families have access to useful & accurate information:
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) February 14, 2023