Senate Committee Republicans Suspend Rules, Clear EPA Nominee
GOP lawmakers' action counters Democrats' two-day boycott of vote
President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, was advanced to the full Senate on Feb. 2 by Republicans on a key committee despite Democrats boycotting a vote on his confirmation for the second day in a row.
The Environment and Public Works Committee changed the rules so that Democrats didn’t have to be present for the committee to vote on Pruitt’s nomination.
Republicans say Pruitt, Oklahoma's attorney general. has answered hundreds of questions put to him by the committee, and that the Democrats were being obstructionists.
Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in an opinion piece in USA Today Jan. 31, said the country needs Pruitt.
“The EPA has become a bloated regulatory behemoth that has lost sight of the needs of the American people and the environment. The agency’s bureaucrats have been more preoccupied with pushing punishing new regulations,” he wrote. “Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s nominee to lead the EPA, is committed to protecting the environment—ensuring clean air, water and land—while allowing the American economy to grow.”
During his confirmation hearing last month, Pruitt said he is concerned about the overreach of EPA to end-run around Congress to make rules by the use of regulation through litigation. He also said his intent is to advocate for the primary responsibility of states in enforcing environmental rules.
Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee, led by Ranking Member Tom Carper (Del.) , asked Barrasso to delay a vote on Pruitt until he provided more information: “While Committee Democrats acknowledge that Mr. Pruitt did submit responses to many questions, too many of his answers fail to provide requested documents, substance, and clarity needed about his potential conflicts of interest.”
Following the GOP vote Feb. 2, the Democrats said they still want answers on Pruitt’s positions.
“I am concerned that we do not know which Scott Pruitt wants to become the EPA Administrator—the one who testified before the EPW Committee committing to support multi-state solutions to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay, or the one reversed course in his responses to written questions, falling back into his position as a lawyer who sued the EPA over and over again to stop such cooperation happening thousands of miles away from his own state of Oklahoma,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said in a statement.
On Feb. 1, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suspended his committee’s rules to advance the nominations of Steven Mnuchin to be treasury secretary and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as secretary of health and human services.