Democrats Boycott Vote On Trump’s EPA Nominee

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Democratic senators boycotted a vote to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick to hear the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday, saying Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt had not answered all of the more than written 1,000 questions submitted to him by lawmaker.

“It is a disappointing turn of events,” Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said when no committee Democrats showed up to the scheduled vote.

“It’s not like they’re busy, literally they’re circling the hallway,” Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican, said Wednesday, comparing the Democrat boycott to a “temper tantrum.”

Democrats gathered in the hallway outside the committee hearing room to broadcast a live statement against Pruitt’s confirmation. Ranking member Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware criticized Pruitt for not answering all the questions submitted to him after his January hearing.

Carper asked Barrasso to postpone the vote until Pruitt answered all 1,078 questions.

Republicans criticized Democrats’ actions as “childish,” but Pruitt opponents pointed out that Republicans boycotted a 2013 committee vote for President Obama’s second pick to head EPA, Gina McCarthy.

Democrats called the 2013 Republican boycott “embarrassing,” but Republicans boycotted the vote because they didn’t believe McCarthy had fully answered all 1,000 of their questions, especially ones regarding agency transparency.

Democrats came out against Pruitt even as he was nominated, largely echoing environmentalist talking points that the Oklahoma prosecutor was a “climate denier” and a shill of “Big Oil.”

Pruitt’s sued EPA dozens of times to overturn agency regulations, which has opponents painting him as anti-clean air and water. Pruitt supporters, however, say the attorney general sued to protect state’s rights from federal overreach.

Democrats also boycotted votes for at least two other Trump cabinet picks Wednesday — votes to support Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary and Georgia Rep. Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary.

But both those nominees were advanced by a rule change by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Those nominees will head to the Senate floor for a vote, though it’s unclear when that will happen.

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