Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Friday responded to Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) calling on him to resign by attacking the lawmaker’s history of drinking.
“It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of a bottle,” Zinke wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “This is coming from a man who used nearly $50,000 in tax dollars as hush money to cover up his drunken and hostile behavior.”
Zinke is referring to a 2015 settlement that the House Employment Counsel paid to a Grijalva top staffer who accused the lawmaker of frequent drinking and creating a hostile work environment, as The Washington Times reported.
“[Grijalva] should resign and pay back the taxpayer for the hush money and the tens of thousands of dollars he forced my department to spend investigating unfounded allegations,” Zinke added.
The hashtag #TuneInnForMore refers to the fact that Grijalva regularly goes to Tune Inn, a bar on Capitol Hill.
“The American people know who I’m here to serve, and they know in whose interests I’m acting,” Grijalva said in a statement. “They don’t know the same about Secretary Zinke.”
Zinke’s strongly worded statement came in response to an op-ed that Griljalva, the likely next chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, published Friday in USA Today. In it, Grijalva called for Zinke to step down over his numerous investigations and ethical woes.
“The American people need an Interior Department focused on addressing climate change, enhancing public recreation, protecting endangered species and upholding the sovereign rights of Native American communities,” Grijalva wrote. “These are not matters of personal preference – they are enshrined in law and supported by voters. The department needs someone accountable at the helm who believes in this mission.”
“Mr. Zinke is not that person,” he added. “Federal agencies cannot function without credible leadership, and he offers none. He needs to resign.”
Grijalva, one of Zinke’s most vocal critics in Congress, promised even before the midterms that if given the gavel next year, he will call on the interior secretary to testify about his many “failures and scandals.” Democrats will gain powerful subpoena authority upon taking over the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 3, and Grijalva has said he will use it if necessary.