Policy

Gowdy’s Oversight Panel Knocking On Interior’s Pricey Doors

Committee wants answers about $139,000 doors, in latest showdown over spending by Trump’s Cabinet officials

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke prepares to testify at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on March 13. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s $139,000 replacement doors have earned him a trip to the principal’s office.

In a letter dated March 22, House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy requested a briefing from Zinke following news reports surrounding the procurement of replacement doors for his office at the Interior Department.

The pricey doors revelation comes as a number of Trump administration Cabinet officials have encountered scrutiny for personal spending on the taxpayer dime. For Zinke in particular, the doors have contributed to a growing list of spending concerns, mainly surrounding the former Montana congressman’s travel transportation and security detail.

“The Committee is aware of numerous reports about the need for replacement doors at the Department and allegations of excess cost,” Gowdy wrote. “To help the Committee evaluate this matter, please provide a briefing on plans to the replace the doors.”

A response from the Interior Department was not immediately available.

Zinke has expressed a similar level of outrage that the doors cost as much as they do, blaming the high price tag on the procurement process that drove up the cost. In an appearance before the House Natural Resources Committee last week, Zinke blamed historic preservation review laws for most of the problem.

“A lot of the issue is on historic buildings, you have to have follow such stringent rules,” Zinke said. “We’re bound by those rules. I don’t even have a choice.”

Zinke said that following the reports of the cost he was able to bring the price down from the originally reported $139,000 to $75,000.

The Interior Department main office building is located blocks away from the White House in Washington, D.C., and was dedicated during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. It is included on the National Register of Historic Places, which means changes are subject to a federal preservation review.

“I think a little more flexibility or common sense can be put in,” Zinke added during the hearing. “And sometimes, our rules — good intent, but when you’re bound by a law that doesn’t make sense, this is where working together can be helpful.”

Critics, including Democrats and environmental groups, have jumped on the expensive doors and Zinke travel expenses as ammunition in their efforts to oppose actions taken by the administration over the past year. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, blasted such expenditures at a time where Zinke was proposing raising entrance fees at some of the country’s most popular national parks.

Ryan Zinke may have thought his $139,000 door could shut out the American people objecting to his unprecedented attack on public lands, but they seemingly can’t stop Congress from demanding answers about his abuse of taxpayer funds,” said Lena Moffitt, a director for the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign.

Watch: A Look Back at Gowdy’s Time in Congress

 

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