Accusing the Louisiana congressman of disrespecting Raya Salter, a lawyer and clean energy advocate during her testimony on corporations and climate change before the House Oversight Committee, the Democrat said: “Men who treat women like that in public, I fear how they treat them in private.”
It followed after Mr Higgins referred to Ms Salter as “good lady” and “boo” in a heated exchange during the hearing as she told the congressman that “the fossil fuel industry that owns your state is destroying the Earth and the natural world”.
"In the four years that I’ve sat on this committee, I have never seen members of Congress, Republican or Democrat, disrespect a witness in the way that I have seen them disrespect you today. I do not care what party they are in. I’ve never seen anything like that,” she said while addressing Ms Salter, the executive director and founder of the Energy Justice Law and Policy Center.
“For the gentleman of Louisiana and the comfort he felt in yelling at you like that, there’s more than one way to get a point across.”
Apologising for the behaviour on behalf of the committee, the Democrat added: “I would hope that someone would issue you an apology, but because I don’t believe he will, I want to apologize to you about the conduct of this committee and what we just witnessed.”
Earlier during the hearing, Mr Higgins began his time by asking Ms Salter what she would do with petrochemicals products if she had control of the world.
“What would you do with petrochemical products?” he asked. “Everything you have, your clothes, your glasses, the car you got here on, your phone, the table you’re sitting at, the chair, the carpet under your feet — everything you’ve got is petrochemical products.
“What would you do with that? Tell the world,” the congressman said.
“If I had that power in the world — actually I don’t need that power,” Ms Salter said in response.
“Because what I would do is ask you sir, from Louisiana, to search, to search," she continued, as Mr Higgins interrupted her.
She added that she would ask the congressman to “search your heart and ask your God what you are doing to the Black and poor people in Louisiana”.
Louisiana is a major centre for the American petrochemical industry, especially along the Mississippi river between New Orleans and Baton Rouge — a region colloquially known as “Cancer Alley” for its high rates of cancer.
Congressman Higgins continued to ask Ms Salter what she would do about things like the maritime industry, much of which currently relies on fossil fuels.
“You have no answers for this stuff,” he said.
“Of course we do, we need to move away from petrochemicals. We need to shut down the petrochemical facilities in your state,” Ms Salter responded.
Eventually, Mr Higgins asked Ms Salter if she cared about the planet, citing the Bible.
“From a biblical perspective, we were given — the Lord gave us dominion over the planet and the creatures thereof,” he said.
“Now, the original translation of ‘dominion’ means to care for and nurture. So, from a biblical perspective, I am an environmentalist. I love my planet and the people and the creatures thereof. Do you?”
“If we’re going to talk about the Lord, I ask that you search your heart again and think about repenting,” Ms Salter said.
“The fossil fuel industry that owns your state is destroying the Earth and the natural world,” she added.
In a tweet following the hearing, the Republican share a clip of the exchange calling, Ms Salter “unhinged”.
“This is what Democrats support – total and immediate elimination of American oil and gas production,” he wrote.
“Thanks for the support! I’m unbothered by fossil fuel cronies!!!” wrote the climate expert, as she appreciated the Democrat for chastising the Republican.