In a letter to President Joe Biden, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) demanded the firing of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, labeling him incompetent and detailing all of his failures.
Citing his failures in handling the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, as an example of Buttigieg’s “gross level of incompetence and apathy” — Rubio noted that it was part of a two-year pattern.
“For two years, Secretary Buttigieg downplayed and ignored crisis after crisis, while prioritizing topics of little relevance to our nation’s transportation system,” the Republican senator wrote.
“It is painfully clear to the American people that Secretary Buttigieg has little regard for the duties of the Secretary of Transportation,” Rubio added.
Rubio went on to accuse the transportation secretary of grossly mismanaging the East Palestine train derailment — contributing to the scale of the disaster.
“At no time has that been more apparent than the past two weeks. Secretary Buttigieg refused to acknowledge the disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, until his intentional ignorance was no longer tenable,” he wrote.
“Even after acknowledging the tragedy, he continues to deflect any accountability for the safety of our nation’s rail system,” Rubio added. “The circumstances leading up to the derailment point to a clear lack of oversight and demand engagement by our nation’s top transportation official.”
“Unfortunately, this is part of a two-year-long pattern. During historic maritime and surface transportation disruptions in 2021, Secretary Buttigieg was completely absent,” he continued. “Amidst an impending possible rail strike last year, Secretary Buttigieg left the country to vacation in Portuguese wine country. 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. I do not have confidence that Secretary Buttigieg is capable of keeping the American people safe.”
The Department of Transportation is not typically in the spotlight, but the agency has been the subject of criticism throughout Buttigieg’s time in office for numerous crises — including mass airline cancellations and the supply chain crisis. Buttigieg himself was the subject of the majority of the criticism, especially because he has appeared to be conveniently missing in action during most of the crises — including taking a nearly three-month paternity leave during the supply chain crisis and a Portugal vacation during tense railroad negotiations that could have had economy-crippling consequences.
Marc Clauson, a professor at Cedarville University in Ohio, echoed these criticisms in a statement to the Washington Examiner.
“His problem has been from the beginning, no matter the controversy, that he’s late to the situation,” Clauson said. “It’s almost as if he’s waiting to see how the political winds are blowing before he says anything.”
Several top lawmakers have expressed similar concerns over Buttigieg’s failures, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and J.D. Vance (R-OH).
Meanwhile, Rubio concluded his letter to Biden by arguing that a failure to fire Buttigieg would be a betrayal of the president’s inaugural promise.
“For two years, the transparency and accountability that you promised to obsessively uphold during your inauguration has been nowhere to be found. The incompetence and failure within your administration cannot continue to be ignored when Americans’ health and safety are at risk,” Rubio wrote. “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.”