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Fla. Republican dresses down totalitarian Oversight Committee chair for ‘gross violation of First Amendment’

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The chief executives of Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Shell were called before the Democrat-run House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Thursday, where chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and her fellow Democratic lawmakers pressed them on whether they would pledge to stop lobbying against efforts to reduce emissions and whether they were willing to tell powerful trade groups to stop working against electric vehicles.

U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on environment, pushed the companies to quit their membership in the American Petroleum Institute over its opposition to electric vehicle subsidies.

The issue of companies having the First Amendment right to make public comments about climate change also came up, with U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., offering a spirited defense in support of these rights, asking how does the United States expect to beat China “when we’re not going to be any better?”

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a former constitutional law professor, dared to ask the executives whether they “accept that the First Amendment does not protect fraudulent commercial speech,” prompting Donalds countered in what the Washington Post characterized as an “emotional tirade” that included calling on Maloney to apologize to the oil executives.

“First of all, to the witnesses, the leaders of Exxon, Chevron, BP,  Shell, I know that climate activists in Twitter-world, which Dave Chappelle say doesn’t exist, and he’s right because it’s just people who don’t have nothing better to do but type on their keyboards. And we do it too here in Congress,” the GOP lawmaker said. “But let’s be very clear, you need an apology because what I witnessed today was just rank intimidation by the chair of this committee. Trying to get you to pledge on what you’re going to spend your money on is a gross violation of the First Amendment.”

“And just because we are members of Congress and we’ve got microphones and we pass laws does not mean that we also have the ability to infringe on your ability to organize, whether its API or anybody else, or what you choose to spend your money on. It is disgusting. It is absolutely disgusting,” Donalds continued. “Somebody needs to go call [Attorney General] Merrick Garland and tell him to get in here and watch the intimidation that came from this very panel today because this is not about defending Big Oil or defending big anything, it’s about defending the ability of people in our country to be free, to say what they want, to think what they want and spend their money how they choose.”

The Republican turned his focus on China, explaining that they are not attending the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference being held next week in Scotland, before calling the attacks on the oil executives “disgusting.”

“And if we’re not going to be any better than the Chinese, how do we ever expect to beat them on the world stage when we’re cutting our neck when it comes to energy production while they are burning more coal, they are burning more oil, they’re increasing their emissions and they’re not showing up in Scotland,” he said. “You know why they’re not showing up in Scotland? Because they are interested in building an economy. They’re interested in becoming the dominant economic player across the globe. They’re interested in becoming the dominant military player across the globe and while we joke around and mess around intimidating you guys, who frankly heat our homes, you cool our fridges, keep our cars going — this is insane. So I’m sorry for you. And I’m sorry for the people in our country who have to witness shenanigans like this and witness circuses like this.”

Donalds went on to compare the hearing to an HBO show — rightfully so.

Amid rising gas prices, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, voiced his frustrations with his Democratic colleagues.

“I’ll tell you what’s frustrating, is a member of Congress telling American oil and gas companies to reduce production,” Jordan said, stressing that the companies should be commended for increasing production.

“God bless Chevron,” he said — the company said it would increase annual production at about 3% or less through 2025, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The reaction to Donalds was lit … here’s but a few responses from Twitter:

Tom Tillison

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