Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) got into quite a dispute during an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, which Boxer chairs, about nuclear power safety. Ultimately, Vitter criticized Boxer for not allowing witnesses to answer the questions she was asking, rather answering the questions for them.
Boxer, though, told Vitter that he did not have any power on the committee or how they were managed, telling him that “When you have this gavel, you make the rules.” It all started when Boxer kept asking Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane if her agency had “implemented any of the recommendations from a task force set up after the 2011 Fukushima Dai’ichi nuclear disaster in Japan.”
“I asked you a question,” Boxer said. “Has industry implemented any of these 12? They haven’t.”
Macfarlane began to say that the NRC prioritized certain recommendations, and some would be completed by the end of 2016. But Boxer was having none of it, and kept interrupting Macfarlane, asking for a yes or no answer.
“Madam chairman, I’d like to hear from the commissioner on where they are in the process,” Vitter, the panel’s top Republican, interrupted.
“Well, I’m running out time, so you can ask her on your time,” Boxer responded. She then asked one of her staffers to add 10 seconds to her five-minute question allowance due to Vitter’s interruption.
Boxer did not stop, however, and ended up asking Macfarlane to answer with a “yes,” no,” or “I dont’ know” on if she would vote to allow exemptions to safety rules for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California.
But, Vitter was not having it.
“Madam chairman, will you let our witnesses answer your question? I mean, the way it normally works is you get to ask the question, but they do get to answer,” Vitter said.
“Madam chairman, we don’t normally have hearings requiring the witnesses to fill in bubble test forms,” Vitter interrupted, as Boxer gaveled him down.
That is when Boxer dropped the gavel on Vitter, telling him “Excuse me. When you have this gavel, you make the rules.”
The California liberal has been the chairwoman of the committee since 2007 when Democrats took control of the Senate. However, Vitter is likely to be the chairman if Republicans regain control of the Senate after the 2014 midterm elections.