Trump Nominees Will Undermine the Work of Their Own Departments

I was struck by this statement from  Chris Mooney, Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson following the announcement that Trump would nominate Scott Pruitt to lead the Environment Protection Agency.

Pruitt has spent much of his energy as attorney general fighting the very agency he is being nominated to lead.

He is the third of Trump’s nominees who have key philosophical differences with the missions of the agencies they have been tapped to run. Ben Carson, named to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has expressed a deep aversion to the social safety net programs and fair housing initiatives that have been central to that agency’s activities. Betsy DeVos, named education secretary, has a passion for private school vouchers that critics say undercut the public school systems at the core of the government’s mission.

While there is some truth to what they said, it seriously understates the point they’re trying to make. Trump’s picks have more than “philosophical differences with the missions of the agencies they have been tapped to run,” and the list is a bit larger than three.

As Mooney, Dennis and Mufson point out, Pruitt has gone on record as a climate change skeptic. Here is what he wrote in the National Review:

Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.

Pruitt boasts of being “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” on his LinkedIn page. And as Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton report:

“During the campaign, Mr. Trump regularly threatened to dismantle the E.P.A. and roll back many of the gains made to reduce Americans’ exposures to industrial pollution, and with Pruitt, the president-elect would make good on those threats,” said Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington research and advocacy organization.

“It’s a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile E.P.A. administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history,” he added.

The authors are right to include Ben Carson on this list, given his nomination to be Sec. of Housing and Urban Development. True to his conspiracy theories about socialist/communist plots, Carson said this about HUD’s recent Supreme Court case that upheld provisions banning discrimination in housing:

“These government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse,” Carson wrote. “There are reasonable ways to use housing policy to enhance the opportunities available to lower-income citizens, but based on the history of failed socialist experiments in this country, entrusting the government to get it right can prove downright dangerous.”

As Secretary of the federal department that is tasked with administering this country’s commitment to public education, Betsy DeVos would enter the job with a dubious record.

It is hard to find anyone more passionate about the idea of steering public dollars away from traditional public schools than Betsy DeVos, Donald J. Trump’s pick as the cabinet secretary overseeing the nation’s education system.

For nearly 30 years, as a philanthropist, activist and Republican fund-raiser, she has pushed to give families taxpayer money in the form of vouchers to attend private and parochial schools, pressed to expand publicly funded but privately run charter schools, and tried to strip teacher unions of their influence.

But let’s not forget a couple of other Trump nominees whose history demonstrates that they don’t support the work of the departments they would be tasked with running.

As the nominee to run Health and Human Services, Tom Price not only wants to repeal Obamacare. While he would be tasked with administering both Medicare and Medicaid, he has long supported the privatization of the former and block granting of the latter to states.

Trump’s first nomination to a Cabinet position was Jeff Session as Attorney General. In that position, Sessions would oversee the Civil Rights Division at DOJ. To begin with, this is a man the Senate deemed to be too racist to sit on the federal judiciary. But he also has a long history of opposition to voting rights and federal oversight of police brutality.

Finally, Martin just gave us a good rundown on Trump’s latest nominee – Andy Puzder to be Sec. of Labor. We can now await a nominee who is committed to privatizing the VA to be Sec. of Veterans Affairs.

The positions of these Cabinet nominees on the tasks assigned to the departments they will oversee goes far beyond what we’ve come to expect in regards to political differences. What they all have in common is a vision to undermine the very premise of a federal role on issues such as climate change, education, housing discrimination, health care, civil rights, labor and veterans care. While much of what they want to accomplish will require Congressional action, their disdain for the work they are tasked to oversee will have tremendous consequences for all of us.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly and frequently blogs at Political Animal.