Democratic senators wasted no time Tuesday hounding the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over his regulatory rollbacks and potential ulterior motives at the agency.
Amid relentless questioning during the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, Democrats used all tools at their disposal, including audio, in an effort to challenge the EPA’s Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA chief braces for grilling from Senate Dems Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog sounds alarm over budget | NJ to rejoin cap-and-trade pact | GOP senator puts hold on Trump energy nominee Overnight Regulation: White House downplays talk of nationalizing 5G after blowback | Azar sworn in as HHS chief | EPA chief set for grilling | Crypto exchange under scrutiny after massive theft MORE on most of his policy decisions and promises since becoming administrator almost a year ago.
Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperEPA chief braces for grilling from Senate Dems Week ahead: EPA chief to face grilling on reg rollback Congressional probe finds synthetic opioid easily shipped from China to US MORE (D-Del.), the ranking member, set the tone early on by thanking Pruitt for making his first appearance at the committee, before critiquing him for taking so long to do so.
“I’d note for the record that your immediate predecessor, Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyEx-EPA chief: Agency will need ’20 to 30′ years to recover from Pruitt The media’s tactics to silence science at Trump’s EPA Overnight Energy: EPA releases ozone findings | Lawmakers come out against Perry grid plan | Kids sue Trump on climate change MORE, appeared before this committee six times in two years, while her predecessor, Lisa Jackson, appeared before us 14 times in six years. You can do better on this front and it’s important that you do,” Carper said.
Other members challenged Pruitt on recent changes the EPA made to its clean air policy and its plans for toxic chemical cleanup. EPA’s new air policy lets some polluting facilities no longer be subject to strict rules for ‘major’ sources of emissions.
Pruitt recently announced a “war on lead,” pointing to the Obama administration’s failure to prevent the Flint water crisis as an example of an area President TrumpDonald John TrumpCynthia Nixon calls for Americans to ‘take to the streets’ if Trump fires Mueller Trump declines to implement new Russia sanctions Comey praises McCabe: He ‘stood tall’ while ‘small people’ tried to tear down the FBI MORE‘s administration could do better.
Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthDuckworth: Trump has no right to question others’ support for military Duckworth: Giving birth while in Senate makes me want to stay longer Sunday show preview: DC gears up for Trump’s first State of the Union MORE (D-Ill.) said Pruitt’s so-called war didn’t hold water. “Unfortunately your rhetoric does not match your actions — your administration would make it harder, not easier, to limit lead exposure,” she said.
Duckworth additionally criticized Pruitt’s recent trip to Morocco, where it was reported that he negotiated sales of natural gas.
“I don’t understand what the sale of natural gas has to do with the EPA’s mission,” Duckworth told Pruitt, before adding that perhaps it was something that he would do if he were running for the governor of his home state, Oklahoma.
Pruitt promised the committee that he was “committed to performing the work that is necessary to meet our mission of protecting human health and the environment.” He added that there remained “important challenges left to tackle,” speaking specifically about his areas of recent focus, which include cleaning up Superfund sites.
While Democrats hit Pruitt with question after question, most failed to land any real blows as the EPA chief resisted answering a number of questions directly.
Senators pressed Pruitt to answer only yes or no questions. But the administrator, who has a background as a prosecutor, largely avoided being held to short answers.
In one striking moment, Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseJuan Williams: The Russian war goes on Prison reform gains new momentum under Trump Senate Dems: Trump making negotiations ‘impossible’ MORE (D-R.I.) added to the record audio of Pruitt in 2016 saying he considered Trump “abusive” to the constitution.
Unprepared, Pruitt said he didn’t remember saying those things.
Shortly after the hearing, Pruitt released a statement reaffirming his positive thoughts of the president.
“After meeting him, and now having the honor of working for him, it is abundantly clear that President Trump is the most consequential leader of our time. No one has done more to advance the rule of law than President Trump. The President has liberated our country from the political class and given America back to the people,” he said in the statement.
The questioning style on the other side of the aisle was a stark contrast.
Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeEPA chief braces for grilling from Senate Dems McCain still ‘calls the shots’ on Armed Services Committee from Arizona, Inhofe says Trump faces tough road ahead in Syria MORE (R-Okla.) greeted Pruitt by first saying “I get the impression they don’t like you.” Inhofe then commended Pruitt’s EPA for the economic benefits the agency created from cutting regulations.
Sen. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanBipartisan group of senators ask Trump to fund broadband in infrastructure plan The Hill’s Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill Lobbying World MORE (R-Ark.) asked Pruitt how false claims about the EPA might “hurt morale.”
Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstIowa voters laugh after GOP senator says Trump is standing up for Norway Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response Family caregivers need a voice in our political debate MORE (R-Iowa) credited the EPA’s rollback of the Clean Water Act, also known as the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, for dropping unemployment in her state.
“Under your leadership EPA has taken back necessary actions to walk back destruction Obama era rules—like WOTUS and the Clean Power Plan,” Ernst told Pruitt.
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