Democratic members of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee boycotted a meeting Wednesday that had been planned to vote on Oklahoma Attorney General (AG) Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The boycott echoed Democratic tactics used in recent days to slow other Trump administration nominees. On Wednesday news outlets reported that the Senate Finance Committee suspended its rules in order to move forward with Trump’s nominees for the Treasury Department and the Department of Health and Human Services without Democratic cooperation.
The EPW Committee could follow suit to move Pruitt’s confirmation process forward despite the Democratic boycott. The committee is scheduled to meet again Thursday morning to consider Pruitt’s nomination along with “committee rules.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, which came and went without a vote, Republicans chided the Democrats for not showing up, characterizing the boycott as obstructionism. They said Pruitt had already undergone a thorough vetting process that included a detailed written questionnaire and a marathon confirmation hearing.
Democrats have objected to Pruitt’s nomination in part because of his ties to the oil and gas industry during his time as Oklahoma’s AG. Pruitt has also joined in a number of lawsuits challenging EPA regulations.
During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt laid out a vision for a more restrained EPA strictly bound by the letter of the law and Congressional intent.
To explain their boycott, the Democratic members of the EPW Committee said Pruitt had not been transparent enough in his responses to their questions, including inquiries about his environmental views and how he would approach potential conflicts of interest stemming from his record litigating against the EPA, among other issues.
Republicans dismissed the Democrats’ concerns as partisanship stemming from the disappointment over the results of the November election.
“The minority may not like all of Attorney General Pruitt’s answers,” EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) said, “but he’s given them answers.”
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