A Republican lawmaker is moving to impeach the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, accusing her of committing perjury and making false statements in testimony to Congress – though the impeachment bid seems unlikely to succeed.
Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar introduced the resolution seeking the ouster of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. In a letter to members of Congress requesting co-sponsors, Gosar specifically claimed McCarthy perjured herself when testifying on the Clean Water Rule, on how the rule was drafted and its legal justification.
"McCarthy not only broke the law by lying to Congress, but in doing so she also lied to the American people in order to force misguided and overreaching regulations, which have no scientific basis, down our throats," Gosar said in a statement, adding that EPA mandates under President Obama "will kill hundreds of thousands of jobs and cause untold economic harm to communities throughout the country."
Critics argue the rule could greatly expand the reach of federal regulators, making every stream, ditch and puddle on farmers' and others' private land subject to federal oversight. However, the EPA claims the rule safeguards drinking water for millions of Americans and the rule will only affect waters that have a "direct and significant" connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected.
Among the instances cited in the letter, Gosar notes that on Feb. 4, McCarthy said the EPA was “not expanding jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, we are not eliminating any exemptions or exclusions in this proposal, we are in fact narrowing the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act consistent with sound science and the law.”
However, Gosar says information on the EPA’s website contradicts this, saying that 3.2 percent of additional waters will be found jurisdictional and that “until now 60 percent of our streams and millions of acres of wetlands all across the country were not protected.”
The letter also cites a statement at the same hearing in which McCarthy described the process behind the rule as “a robust dialogue with the states.” However, he says states and local governments were not included in the process of drafting the rule; Gosar notes that 28 states have filed lawsuits to block it.
An EPA spokeswoman, in response, said Gosar's resolution "has zero merit and is nothing more than political theater."
"Protecting public health and the environment for all Americans should not be a political issue," she said.
The plan to impeach McCarthy seemed to have a slim chance of success in the House, with even Republican leadership pouring cold water on the idea.
“There’s no plan to impeach Gina McCarthy,” a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.
Historically, impeaching a Cabinet member is rarely successful. The only Cabinet member to have been impeached was William Belknap, war secretary in the administration of President Ulysses Grant.
In 1876, the House voted to send articles of impeachment to the Senate after they uncovered patterns of corruption, and accused Belknap of “criminally disregarding his duty as Secretary of War and basely prostituting his high office to his lust for private gain.” However, while the Senate voted against Belknap, it did not secure the necessary two-thirds and Belknap -- who had already resigned -- was acquitted.
A federal court ruling blocked the water measure in 13 central and Western states, but the EPA has said it is going forward with the rule in 37 other states.
Sara Chieffo, vice president for government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters, said Gosar's impeachment bid is "yet another example of what great lengths certain members of Congress will go to to do polluters' bidding and go after the EPA."
The impeachment resolution is supported by the conservative group FreedomWorks. Nineteen House Republicans have co-sponsored Gosar's resolution.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.