State Sen. Doug Ericksen defended his dual role as lawmaker and member of President Trump’s transition team, saying his situation was ethically tenable. The Republican from Ferndale suggested Democrats were complaining for political advantage.
OLYMPIA — Washington state Sen. Doug Ericksen Thursday defended his dual role as lawmaker and member of President Trump’s transition team, saying his situation was ethically tenable and suggesting Democrats sought to raise the issue for political advantage.
Ericksen, a Republican from Ferndale, last month took a temporary job on the presidential transition team for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. His news conference Thursday had been delayed by a day, because Ericksen had trouble returning to Olympia in time.
Ericksen pointed to Wednesday evening’s Senate vote on a K-12 education-funding bill, intended to satisfy the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, as an example that the Senate is functioning normally.
The Senate Republican coalition is the only one “that has passed a comprehensive McCleary fix,” Ericksen said. “So, we’re getting the work done.”
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That vote, originally scheduled for Wednesday morning, was postponed after Ericksen couldn’t return to Olympia in time. Because the Republican coalition controls the Senate by only member, Ericksen’s vote is needed to pass bills that don’t have support from Democrats.
As a result of Wednesday’s scheduling changes, a pair of legislative committee hearings were canceled, which left some Democrats frustrated.
Ericksen brushed off those concerns.
“While some people here in Olympia try to raise concerns, I think those people are doing it for partisan reasons,” he said. Ericksen added later that members of the Republican coalition “know they can rely on me.”
The Washington Legislature is considered part time, so many lawmakers hold other jobs in their communities.
Ericksen said ethics officials for the EPA, as well as attorneys in both the state Senate administration and outside legal experts, have looked into whether he can hold both his state position and the temporary federal job, and said it is allowable.
The senator hasn’t yet released documentation by any of the attorneys or officials, but said at the news conference that he would work on releasing some of that.
Other questions remained, including how often Ericksen would be in Olympia, and how much he earns in his federal position. Ericksen, who is managing communications of the transition effort at EPA, said he did not know how much money he makes.
In a statement, Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski blasted Ericksen for attempting to do both jobs simultaneously.
“It’s outrageous for Senator Doug Ericksen to claim that he can responsibly serve the people of Washington State and the people of the 42nd legislative district while also working in Washington D.C. for Donald Trump,” Podlodowski said in prepared remarks. “He has missed a myriad of votes, is inaccessible to the people who live in his district and is not attending to critical issues here in Washington State, especially solving the education-funding crisis.”
At the news conference, Ericksen also hinted at changes to come at the EPA under a Trump administration, suggesting a faster environmental cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation and “new science” concerning climate change. Ericksen is a noted skeptic of the consensus among scientists that humans cause global warming.
“There are lots of people on the other [Democratic] side who have very different political views, who’d like to see massive tax increases and the shutdown of industry and leave all oil in the ground, which is just not a realistic thing to talk about,” Ericksen said.
“What we’ll continue to work on is expanding the science at the EPA to allow people who have been denied the ability to have their views brought forward, and allow it,” he said.
About a quicker Hanford cleanup, Ericksen said: “We have been in a holding delay pattern over there for far too long, we have a new administration that likes to get things done and hopefully we will change our tune.”