Sen. Jim Inhofe gave rare, unexpected praise of the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, before launching into a scathing critique of the agency's priorities.
The Oklahoma Republican, who is chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, opened a hearing on the EPA budget with what he called a "positive note" to Administrator Gina McCarthy.
"I want you to commend your staff," he said. "But I want to start off on a positive note," he said, although it may be "the last positive note" of the day.
He said because of McCarthy and her staff, the Senate and the House are now ready to agree on a landmark chemical safety bill that has been held up for months.
"Without your staff that wouldn't have been possible," Inhofe said.
He said the Senate is hours away from agreement with the House on harmonizing much-needed updates to the nearly 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act.
The bill provides the EPA broad authority to regulate manufacturers, importers and processors of chemicals, including commercial and consumer products that contain the substances.
But the praise was short-lived.
Inhofe went into a litany of gripes with the EPA, including the Obama administration's climate change rules, the toxic spill the agency caused in Colorado last year, the illegal social media campaign the agency used to boost its Waters of the U.S. rule, and contentious new ozone regulations that are too strict for any town or county to comply with.