"America is a nation of laws, not of men and women.”
These words, spoken countless times throughout our nation’s history, should always be a guiding principle for policymakers in America. As citizens of this great nation, we must ask those who lead our country to respect the supremacy of law, as it’s only then that differences of opinion can coexist peacefully.
Two individuals recently selected to help lead our country embody this necessary characteristic, and we would be lucky to have their service.
I am pleased by President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Montana’s congressman, Ryan Zinke, to serve as secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, and Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt, to serve as administrator of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. I have the privilege of knowing both individuals personally, and I believe they will continue to serve our country well in their new roles.
Congressman Zinke has been a steadfast supporter of responsible natural resource development, sensible environmental protections, balancing access to public lands with private property rights, and has worked tirelessly to maintain positive and productive relationships with tribal nations across Montana. And perhaps most importantly, I am confident Zinke will respect the legal limitations of his new post, and adhere to our nation’s lawmaking process. I look forward to his swift and decisive confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
I have the same hopes for the confirmation of Attorney General Pruitt.
Unfortunately, opponents of Pruitt’s nomination see fit to misrepresent his work as Oklahoma’s attorney general to rally opposition to his confirmation. In an attempt to portray him as an “out-of-touch extremist,” detractors characterize his opposition to certain Obama administration policy initiatives as “anti-science.” These claims couldn’t be further from the truth.
Under federal law, the states have a significant role to play in the realm of environmental protection. Throughout President Obama’s tenure in office, the EPA regularly ignored congressional prescription of states’ environmental protection role. Legal challenges to unlawful regulations such as Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) and the so-called “Clean Power Plan” are examples of Pruitt standing up for the rights of his state when the EPA adopted public policy that circumvented the proper process.
It’s illogical to claim an individual is somehow opposed to scientific realities simply because they are dedicated to preserving the rule of law in our country. Public policy rooted in science must still be enacted through the proper channels, and in the United States, that means recognizing the reality that is the separation of powers and the principles of federalism.
Simply put, we all must play by the rules of the game. If we don’t, it’s just a matter of time before “the shoe is on the other foot,” and those championing unilateral policymaking one day become those voicing outrage the next.
Zinke’s and Pruitt’s high regard for the rule of law in America is invaluable. I call on U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester and the rest of the U.S. Senate to support swift confirmation of both men to their new positions, as our nation is best served if they are allowed to get to work as soon as possible. A vote against confirmation is a vote against Montana.-
-- Tim Fox is Montana's attorney general.