WASHINGTON — If the U.S. Forest Service can do anything to change the orbits of the moon or Earth, Rep. Louie Gohmert wants to know.

During a House hearing, the Tyler Republican stumped a top agency official by asking her about the Forest Service’s capabilities to relocate celestial bodies, given his view that humanity is not otherwise able to improve the climate — by cutting fossil fuel use, for instance.

“I was informed by the past director of NASA that they have found that the moon’s orbit is changing slightly and so has the Earth’s orbit around the sun,” Gohmert said at the Tuesday hearing, noting “significant” solar storm activity this week. “Is there anything that the national Forest Service or [Bureau of Land Management] can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate.”

There was a noticeable pause from Jennifer Eberlien, associate deputy chief of the Forest Service, a part of the Agriculture Department that manages 193 million acres around the country, about the area of Texas.

BLM is actually part of the Interior Department, which also does not engage in space research.

“I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert,” Eberlien responded with a slight chuckle.

“Well, if you figure out a way that you in the Forest Service can make that change, I’d like to know,” Gohmert said.

The tea party conservative was deadpan through the exchange, which took place during a discussion of a bill from Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a liberal Democrat from Michigan, to commission a report on the impact of recreational permits on “environmental justice communities.”

Moriba Jah, an astrodynamics expert and professor at the University of Texas at Austin, called Gohmert’s suggestion “crazy” and “as feasible as making the sun rise in the west.”

Satirical or not, Jah said, to hear someone in a position of such power “make statements that are blatantly dismissive of science … it makes me a bit nervous.”

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