Following the derailing of a train carrying hazardous chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg called on former President Donald Trump to support the Biden administration by endorsing its reversal of Trump-era deregulations.
“One thing he could do is express support for reversing the deregulation that happened on his watch,” Buttigieg said during a press conference from the scene Thursday after he was asked about Trump, who had visited the day prior.
“I heard him say he had nothing to do with it, even though it was in his administration. So if he had nothing to do with it and they did it in his administration against his will, maybe he could come out and say that he supports us moving in a different direction,” the transportation secretary said.
He said higher fees, more robust regulations on safety, and congressional support would be a welcome endorsement by the former president.
“That’d be a nice thing for him to do,” Buttigieg added.
In the aftermath of the derailment, the White House has accused Republican lawmakers and the Trump administration of sloppy railway and environmental rules.
To cut costs, GOP senators in 2021 urged the Federal Railroad Administration to expand automated track inspections and proposed cutting government funding for chemical spills, the White House points out. The Trump administration, according to Politico, also undid scheduled safety audits and a rule requiring faster brakes on trains transporting volatile chemicals.
Buttigieg did not let up on the former president.
“We’re not afraid to own our policies when it comes to raising the bar on regulation, and I’ve got to think that him indicating that this is something that everybody, no matter how much you disagree on politics and presidential campaigns, can get behind,” he said.
Amid criticism for not heading to the disaster site sooner, Buttigieg went to East Palestine the day after Trump made an appearance there, claiming that it was the Biden administration’s fault the town had been neglected and that it was because of Trump’s presence that the current administration was taking note of the town’s needs now.
Republicans had targeted Buttigieg, including calling for his resignation because they felt he didn’t show up at the accident site where nobody died in Ohio soon enough.
However, even on Fox News, anchor Bret Baier challenged several of his colleagues during a Wednesday broadcast ahead of Buttigieg’s trip, in which he pointed out that Trump’s transportation secretary — Sen. Mitch McConnell’s wife — Elaine Chao did not make any appearances at derailments.
That includes derailments at which there were fatalities, Baier pointed out.
Whether President Biden will visit has not yet been confirmed by the White House. He just returned from a trip to Poland, on the way to which he made a surprise appearance in Ukraine.