On Thursday (March 2), Republican Senator Mitt Romney (Utah) called out Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as “not ready for the responsibility he has,” suggesting that the position would be better filled by someone else.
Romney’s comments come as Buttigieg receives backlash for his handling of the East Palestine, Ohio, toxic train derailment.
The Utah Republican noted that while his understanding led him to believe Buttigieg was a “good mayor,” he believed his role in cabinet would be “better served by a person who’s managed a large enterprise, a state, or something of… scale.”
Buttigieg has come under scrutiny in recent months, first for troubles with the Federal Aviation Administration and excessive air travel delays over the holidays and now for his managing of the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
On February 3, 38 cars of the Norfolk Southern train derailed; numerous of those were carrying the hazardous chemical cancer-causing vinyl chloride.
Residents had to be temporarily evacuated over concerns there could be a possible explosion as the hazardous chemicals burned at the derailment.
Residents are also concerned that there may be toxic substances left behind.
The derailment has given rise to scrutiny of federal regulations regarding rails carrying hazardous substances and raises questions about how the government should respond to spills.
Last week, Buttigieg visited East Palestine, Ohio. Despite the visit, he still received backlash from Republicans who called him out for his trip coming too long after the train derailed.
However, the Department of Transportation defended Buttigieg’s actions, saying the secretary didn’t want to visit the area when his presence would “detract from the emergency response efforts.”