EXCLUSIVE: Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., are introducing a bill Friday that would strip the federal salary from a Biden administration official overseeing aggressive fuel efficiency regulations.
Cruz and Lummis’ bill — which will be introduced as an amendment to a so-called “minibus” appropriations package funding the Departments of Transportation, Housing, and Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2024 — would effectively defund Ann Carlson, who is serving as acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a Transportation Department subagency.
Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee led by Cruz, who is the panel’s ranking member, have argued the White House is skirting constitutional requirements by allowing Carlson to lead NHTSA in an “acting” capacity. Earlier this year, after substantial industry and congressional opposition, Carlson failed to clear Senate confirmation to permanently lead NHTSA.
Because the White House withdrew her nomination before she received a floor vote, she is technically allowed to lead the agency as acting administrator since she wasn’t directly rejected, a loophole the bill Friday aims to close.
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In a recent letter to President Biden regarding Carlson, Cruz pointed to the Federal Vacancies Reform Act which prohibits “any person who has been nominated to fill any vacant office from performing that office’s duties in an acting capacity.” He argued the provision and the fact that Carlson did not serve in the position of first assistant to former NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff for more than 90 days before he resigned, precludes her from her current position.
In addition, according to Cruz, Carlson continuing to lead NHTSA casts doubt on the legality of the agency’s actions. In the time since her nomination fell through, NHTSA has proposed its most-aggressive-ever fuel economy standards that experts warned would substantially increase car prices and force electric vehicle purchases, but which Carlson said would “reduce harmful emissions.”
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“Biden’s EV mandates and subsidies may have been inspired by radical politicians in deep blue states, but they’ve been put into practice by unaccountable bureaucrats like Ann Carlson,” Cruz told Fox News Digital on Sept 20. “With the current strike, it has become increasingly obvious that the left’s full-fledged assault on popular gas-powered cars and trucks is causing chaos in the auto sector — and it’s no wonder workers are concerned about long-term job security.”
“President Biden and Green New Deal absolutists like Ann Carlson own this strike,” he continued. “President Biden’s illegal appointment of Ann Carlson, who was effectively rejected by the Senate due to concerns about her extreme agenda and radical record, will only yield more mandates, higher costs for families and a less vibrant economy.”
In January 2021, the Biden-Harris transition team hired Carlson, then an environmental law professor at UCLA, to serve as NHTSA’s chief counsel. The position didn’t require Senate confirmation, but Carlson has overseen key agency initiatives including fuel economy standards and began serving as acting administrator in September 2022.
Then, in February, Biden nominated Carlson to be the administrator of NHTSA, and the White House subsequently transmitted the nomination to the Senate Commerce Committee a month later. However, Carlson’s nomination faced stiff opposition led by Cruz and fellow Commerce Committee Republicans who pointed to her history of environmental activism and desire to transform NHTSA into a climate-focused agency.
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On May 30, the White House announced her nomination had been withdrawn. Carlson, though, has continued serving as NHTSA’s acting administrator, and the White House has yet to nominate a replacement, making her the agency’s chief for the foreseeable future.
“To comply with the law, you should immediately correct your violation of the law by removing Ms. Carlson from her so-called acting administrator position,” Cruz and the 12 other Republicans wrote in their letter to Biden last week. “After doing so, you should nominate a serious and well-qualified person to be NHTSA administrator.”