The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee voted Thursday to approve Oklahoma Attorney General (AG) Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), suspending committee rules to push past a Democratic boycott.
The move comes after the Senate Finance Committee took similar action to approve two of Trump’s nominees despite a Democratic boycott.
Pruitt will now go to the full Senate for a vote.
Thursday marked the second day in a row Democrats on the EPW Committee declined to show up for a vote on Pruitt’s nomination. Republicans on Wednesday criticized the Democratic boycott as obstructionism, while Democrats continued to voice their concerns over Pruitt’s ties to the oil and gas industry while serving as Oklahoma’s AG and his record litigating against the agency he’s now poised to lead.
With a row of empty seats to his left, EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) didn’t mince words in explaining why Republicans decided to suspend committee rules and press forward with Pruitt’s nomination.
He said the committee’s review of Pruitt had been “extremely thorough and fair” and called the Democratic boycott “unprecedented.”
“Yesterday, the minority members of the committee chose to boycott our business meeting, because they do not support the nomination of Scott Pruitt,” Barrasso said. “As we pointed out yesterday, elections have consequences, and a new president is entitled to put in place people who will advance his agenda, the agenda the people voted for when they elected him president.”
He added, “We took this extraordinary step because the minority members of the committee took the extraordinary step of boycotting the business meeting to approve an EPA administrator for an incoming administration.”
Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), in a statement released via Twitter shortly after Thursday’s meeting, accused Pruitt of avoiding Democrats’ requests for information and failing to provide “substantive answers” to their questions.
“We have made our requests perfectly clear, and I believe they are entirely reasonable…I am disappointed that our majority has decided to ignore our concerns and those of the American people, and break the Committee’s rules in an effort to expedite Mr. Pruitt’s nomination,” Carper said.
With his record challenging Obama’s EPA, Pruitt figures to lead a more constrained environmental agency. During his confirmation hearing last month, Pruitt acknowledged he thinks climate change is real while asserting that he could be both pro-energy and pro-environment.
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