FIRST ON FOX: A coalition of 13 Senate Republicans is warning that a top Biden administration official overseeing aggressive fuel efficiency regulations is illegally serving in the position, nullifying recent actions her agency has taken.
In a letter Wednesday to President Biden, the GOP senators, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Acting Administrator Ann Carlson must be immediately removed from her position. Earlier this year, Carlson failed to clear Senate confirmation to permanently lead NHTSA.
‘In circumvention of the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to provide advice and consent on presidential nominations, you appointed Ms. Carlson to lead the agency after her nomination to be NHTSA administrator failed in the face of significant Senate opposition due to her extreme policy views, radical environmentalist record, and lack of vehicle safety experience,’ the letter stated.
‘Ms. Carlson’s appointment as acting administrator not only violates the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (Vacancies Act) but also renders the agency’s actions while she has held herself out as acting administrator invalid,’ Cruz and the other Republicans added. ‘We urge you to immediately replace Ms. Carlson as acting administrator and name a new nominee as soon as possible.’
In January 2021, the Biden-Harris transition team hired Carlson, then an environmental law professor at UCLA, to serve as NHTSA’s chief counsel. While the position didn’t require Senate confirmation, Carlson has overseen key agency initiatives, like the modification of fuel economy standards, and has served as acting administrator since September.
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.
On May 30, the White House announced her nomination had been withdrawn.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 to Biden. ‘After doing so, you should nominate a serious and well-qualified person to be NHTSA administrator.’
The letter cited the Federal Vacancies Reform Act that prohibits ‘any person who has been nominated to fill any vacant office from performing that office’s duties in an acting capacity.’ The purpose of the provision, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court, is to prevent the White House from doing an ‘end run around the Senate’s constitutional advice and consent authority,’ the Republicans continued.
They added that Carlson cannot serve as acting administrator under the Vacancies Act both because of her failed nomination and because she did not serve in the position of first assistant to former NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff for more than 90 days before he resigned in September 2022.
As a result of Carlson improperly leading the agency, the Republicans said actions taken during her tenure are, therefore, invalid.
Notably, in late July, NHTSA proposed its most aggressive ever fuel economy standards that experts warned would substantially increase car prices and force electric vehicle purchases. Carlson said at the time the regulations would help ‘reduce harmful emissions.’
‘These standards run contrary to the law, diminish consumer choice, impose higher costs on American families, and undermine our national and energy security all while benefiting China,’ the letter stated. ‘Because Ms. Carlson cannot legally serve as the acting administrator, these proposed standards are invalid and cannot be ratified by a subsequent Senate-confirmed NHTSA administrator.’
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Cruz noted that Democrats’ policies at the federal and state level pushing electric vehicles have created chaos in the auto industry.
He also argued the ongoing autoworker strikes demonstrate how electric vehicle mandates have harmed the industry. Last week, the United Auto Workers (UAW) unleashed their first-ever simultaneous strike against all three of the largest U.S. automakers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — over wages, a modified work week and pension benefits.
‘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. ‘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.’
Every Republican member of the Senate Commerce Committee signed the letter to Biden Wednesday.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.