GOP: Worker fired for backing radiation plan
The administration fired an employee for telling the truth to Congress, GOP lawmakers charged Tuesday, saying political appointees at the Energy Department were upset the woman backed a radiation program popular on Capitol Hill but which the department had planned to ax.
Energy officials had hoped to cannibalize the money to fund global warming research, but stumbled when Dr. Noelle Metting instead defended radiation research funding, House Republicans said in a staff report.
Dr. Metting was fired soon after the Oct. 16, 2014, briefing she delivered, and the House Science Committee says it has obtained documents showing the administration was upset at her for straying from pre-approved talking points.
“Instead of providing the type of scientific information needed by Congress to legislate effectively, senior departmental officials sought to hide information, lobbied against legislation, and retaliated against a scientist for being forthcoming,” Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, said.
The committee said the firing likely had a chilling effect within the agency and amounted to a “premeditated and calculated attack on the legislative process.”
The Energy Department established the lowradiation program in the 1990s to study the health impacts of exposure during medical diagnostic tests, waste cleanup, work with nuclear weapons or power production, natural disasters or acts of terrorism.
The agency’s fiscal 2016 budget request proposed shuttering the radiation program to increase funding for bioenergy and modeling for President Obama’s effort to stem climate change, the committee report said.
Congressional aides said the low-radiation program was receiving about $20 million per year.
Dr. Metting’s attorneys contacted the House panel in late 2015 to describe the her treatment, prompting the committee’s investigation.
Congressional aides said Dr. Metting was first placed in another position at the Energy Department and then fired, only to be re-hired — though not in her initial job — after suing the agency.
A spokesman for the Energy Department responded to the report by saying the agency “will not comment on personnel matters.”
The committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, said her members agreed with GOP members during a hearing in September — that Energy Department officials mishandled the issue — so she was “disappointed” that she did not know about the staff report prior to its release.
“So while minority staff have already made me aware of some significant omissions and overly broad generalizations in the report, I cannot comment on its findings and conclusions in detail at this time,” she said. “It is important that we ensure that federal scientists are not prevented or discouraged from sharing information with Congress.”
“It is equally important that federal scientists not be intimidated by Congress,” she added, referring to Chairman Smith’s decision to subpoena scientists at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last year over their research on global warming.
The House GOP report is the latest in a line of complaints about how Mr. Obama and his aides have treated Capitol Hill. From slow-walking requests to withholding information and forcing Congress to issue subpoenas, Republicans say Mr. Obama has not treated them with disdain.
Mr. Smith said he hoped for better cooperation as the Obama administration gives way to Presidentelect Donald Trump and his cabinet.