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Jennifer Granholm
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm testifies in a hearing on Capitol Hill on May 1. Susan Walsh/AP

A House Oversight Hearing Devolved Into Shouting Over Biden’s Climate Agenda

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was repeatedly frustrated by Republicans who used the hearing to attack the Biden administration’s emissions priorities.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm grew visibly frustrated under increasingly aggressive questioning from House Republicans at an Oversight Committee hearing Thursday, raising her voice and even slapping her hands on the table as members tried to steamroll her answers to their questions.

Republicans used the hearing to attack President Joe Biden’s climate agenda, often talking over Granholm’s answers to make political points. Granholm’s appearance — in one of her signature kelly green blazers — followed complaints from Oversight Chair James Comer, who accused her of avoiding requests for a hearing for months.

Under Granholm, the Department of Energy has embraced its role as a climate leader in charge of disbursing funds from the Inflation Reduction Act and the infrastructure bill. In addition to government money and tax credits, the Biden administration has pushed out a record number of important final rules related to climate and the environment in the last several months (many of them through the DOE), protecting them from quick destruction in the event of a Donald Trump victory in November.

The DOE’s climate focus has made Granholm an easy target for Republicans. Nearly every conservative member at the hearing took time to criticize the administration’s promotion of electric vehicles, a talking point also popular with Trump on the campaign trail. Many also spoke about light bulbs, dishwashers or other appliances, accusing the administration of raising prices for consumers. (One extended line of questioning about incandescent light bulbs devolved into accusations from Rep. Eric Burlison that Granholm believes consumers are uneducated, a suggestion that visibly upset her.)

But it was aggressive criticism — and falsehoods — about the Department of Energy’s pause on the approval of new liquefied natural gas exports that caused Granholm to lose the measured poise she had maintained in the early part of the hearing. The United States is currently the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, but the pause on approving future export plans has been heralded as a victory for climate activists and inspired fear from oil and gas companies.

The raised voices that characterize most House Oversight Committee hearings in the 118th Congress began at a bright and early 9:20 a.m., when Rep. Clay Higgins from Louisiana called the LNG export pause a “ban” and asked Granholm to explain how it could be in the public interest. His questioning quickly turned to shouting. Several times Granholm said, “It is not a ban,” but Higgins spoke over her, the volume escalating over the course of his time.

Rep. Byron Donalds returned to the subject of LNG, accusing the administration of increasing gas prices through the pause. When Donalds would not leave time for Granholm to respond, she tried to speak over him, but he continued to interrupt her. “The pause does not affect that!” she shouted over him toward the end of the questioning.

Republicans then took a brief detour to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a popular political talking point. Rep. Pat Fallon accused the Biden administration of releasing gas to lower prices in an effort to affect the election, causing Granholm to huff and grab the table in frustration when the questioning ended.

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The secretary made no effort to hide her frustration when the questioning again returned to the LNG pause. Rep. Michael Waltz, flanked by a staffer with blown-up pictures of Granholm smiling with the hosts of “The View” and another showing inflationary prices, also called the LNG export pause a “ban,” speaking over Granholm when she tried to explain that the U.S. is currently the largest natural gas exporter in the world.

“It is not this administration that is hampering the production of oil and gas. I mean, you can make that face, but we are at number one in the world. We are at record levels,” she said, vehemently gesturing before Waltz laughed and interrupted, poking at the desk repeatedly with a pencil as he spoke over her. The pencil fell to the floor as they yelled over each other, well past the time allowed.

When Comer concluded the hearing, he urged Granholm to sell her fellow cabinet members on testifying in the same way. “Hopefully, you’ll tell your colleagues in the cabinet that this was a good experience,” he said.

Anna Kramer is a reporter at NOTUS.