Energy

Dems Urge Congress To Postpone Trump’s EPA Pick Despite Lengthy Grilling

Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A Delaware senator urged his Democratic colleagues to postpone President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pick even after Congress subjected the nominee to a grueling six hour-long confirmation hearing.

Sen. Tom Carper asked his congressional colleagues to “postpone” making any decisions to affirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as Trump’s EPA head. Democrats are “deeply concerned” about Pruitt’s unwillingness to answer questions, the Delaware Democrat wrote in a letter to Republican Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works.

“While Committee Democrats acknowledge that Mr. Pruitt did submit responses to many questions, too many of his answers fail to provide requested documents, substance, and clarity needed about his potential conflicts of interests,” Carper added.

He was referring to concerns that Pruitt’s lawsuits against the EPA might represent a conflict of interest if he was confirmed — Carper wants Pruitt to recuse himself from agency matters dealing with litigation he initiated as the Oklahoma AG.

Pruitt received, and answered, more than 1,000 questions after his hearing in January — Carper and his fellow Democrats believe his answers about conflicts of interest and his record as an AG are insufficient.

He sat through a grueling six-hour marathon of confirmation questions from lawmakers over the past several weeks, while former President Barack Obama’s EPA appointee Gina McCarthy faced a three-hour stint before being confirmed.

Carper called on Democrats in December to stonewall Pruitt’s nomination, despite telling his Republican colleagues in 2014 that presidents of both parties deserve to pick whoever they want to fill their cabinets. He called it a disgrace for Republicans to postpone Obama’s nominees for political reasons.

Senators have always debated the merits of presidential nominees, he said in 2014, but in the end, they usually get the team they want.

Carper’s comments, which were made during the height of President Barack Obama’s second term, were meant to persuade his colleagues to avoid turning the confirmation process into a “game of executive branch Swiss cheese.”

He added: “The President, regardless of what party they are from, needs, for the most part, to have the team they want to put in place. They have been elected to lead. Let’s give them a chance to lead.”

Carper also criticized Pruitt during confirmation hearings over his state’s failing grades on high ozone days, but the three counties he presides over did just as bad as the 17 counties in Pruitt’s state. He also laid into Pruitt’s stance on the issue, even though the Oklahoma AG’s office is not responsible for regulating the state’s ozone pollution — that’s the job of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

Carper said that he would do something if his state’s environmental record were as poor as Pruitt’s.

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