The Senate voted 52-46 Friday in favor of confirming Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota crossed the aisle to vote “yes” on Pruitt’ confirmation, while Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine voted “no.”
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana did not vote. The Senate were expected to confirm Pruitt despite overwhelming opposition from Democrats and liberal activists.
“He’s exceptionally qualified,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in support of Pruitt’s confirmation.
Democratic lawmakers tried to postpone Pruitt’s confirmation vote, arguing there should be no vote until the former Oklahoma AG released thousands of emails allegedly connecting him to fossil fuel interests.
A coalition of liberal groups sued Pruitt’s office for those emails. A judge ordered the emails released, but they did not come out in time for his confirmation vote.
Pruitt opponents also criticized the nominee, saying he was involved in many lawsuits against the agency he will now run. Pruitt joined dozens of states in suing the EPA to overturn major rules on power plants, navigable waters and other regulations.
Republicans, on the other hand, argue Pruitt will restore EPA to its proper role and respect state sovereignty.
“He’s dedicated to environmental protection,” McConnell said. “And, as someone with state government experience, he understands the real-world consequences of EPA actions and knows that balance is the key to making policies that are sustainable over the long-term.”
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