Democratic lawmakers are planning a confirmation battle over President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
Democrats have labeled Pruitt a “climate denier” who will do the bidding of “Big Oil,” and some are plotting to, at the very least, make a show out of his confirmation hearings. They’ve joined environmentalists in whining about Pruitt’s appointment.
“We have a fight on our hands and Republicans have to do a moral gut check and a political one,” Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz told Politico. “This is absolutely a fight worth having and we’re ready for it.”
“I don’t think you can have an EPA administrator who’s anti-science. You just can’t,” echoed Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who just ran a failed election bid as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nominee.
Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley said they would “thoroughly vet” Pruitt. Merkley and other Democrats claim Pruitt colluded with energy companies to attack EPA regulations.
Pruitt has been involved in numerous challenges to Obama administration energy regulations, including the EPA’s global warming rule for power plants.
“It doesn’t get any swampier than this,” Merkley, who’s on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Committee, told Politico. “The public record of misuse of office is extensive and certainly inappropriate for service in any federal capacity.”
Republican lawmakers will likely move quickly to get Pruitt and other Trump appointees past the Senate. Pruitt needs just 51 votes for his confirmation, so Democrats would have to convince a few Republicans to join the opposition.
That’s not likely. What’s more likely, however, is Democrats peeling away to support Pruitt’s taking over EPA.
Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have both met with Trump for potential cabinet roles. Both have been ardent EPA critics in recent years and could join Republicans.
“He’s doing something right,” Texas Republican Rep. Pete Olson told an audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation Thursday morning, referring to Democratic outrage at Pruitt’s appointment.
Pruitt will likely carry out Trump’s pledge to roll back EPA regulations targeting U.S. energy production, including the Clean Power Plan — Pruitt joined 27 other states in suing to stop this rule from going into effect.
Early on in the campaign, Trump said he would eliminate the EPA, but softened his stance to refocusing the agency away from global warming to protecting air and water quality.
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