Democrats didn’t hide their true feelings about Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s agenda during a Tuesday hearing, laying into the agency head for cutting Obama-era regulations and proposed budget cuts.
“I get the impression they don’t like you,” Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe joked after Pruitt got a tongue lashing from Democrats on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Two Democrats — Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois — were especially critical. Delaware Sen. Tom Carpe angrily yelled at Pruitt during his opening remarks. Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse pressed Pruitt on past comments about President Donald Trump.
“Now that you’re finally here, I want some real answers. The American people need real answers,” Carper said.
Things got really heated when Carper attacked Pruitt for claiming that former President Barack Obama said “we had to choose between jobs and the environment.” Carper said Obama said the opposite, and attacked Pruitt for co-opting Obama’s words as his own.
“To take the very same words, the same words, that President Obama used on countless occasions, use them on your own, and claim that Obama said the opposite, is frankly galling. Stop doing it.” Carper said.
Whitehouse took the opportunity to get in some political shots and pressed Pruitt on comments he made in 2016 about then-candidate Trump. Pruitt, who advised Jeb Bush’s primary campaign, told an Oklahoma radio show that “Donald Trump in the White House would be more abusive to the Constitution than Barack Obama — and that’s saying a lot.” A liberal investigative group released the recording.
Whitehouse made a big deal out of the 2-year-old comments, having his staff make up posters with Pruitt’s remarks in big, bold letters.
.@EPAScottPruitt mostly sits stoically as @SenWhitehouse asks him about a 2/4/16 radio interview in which Pruitt agreed w/ host that Trump is “dangerous” & a “bully.” pic.twitter.com/SfIbT9Z5uK
— Jennifer A. Dlouhy (@jendlouhyhc) January 30, 2018
Duckworth laid into Pruitt for delaying a planned update to the Lead and Copper rule. Pruitt said the EPA has been working on an update for 10 years, but Duckworth wasn’t having it.
“Everyday I have children who are exposed to lead and they don’t have 700 days to wait,” Duckworth said.
Duckworth also laid into Pruitt over Trump’s budget proposal, which cut funding for EPA programs dealing with lead.
Pruitt said the administration has a plan to eradicate lead in drinking water in the next 10 years as part of infrastructure spending. Duckworth pressed Pruitt on what programs he would defend as part of the “war on lead,” but Pruitt wouldn’t give any firm commitments.
“I’m going to have to take this as a ‘no’ because you’re not answering my question,” Duckworth said, exasperated, before her time for questioning ended.
Pruitt also said cleaning up abandoned mines was another major priority for the EPA.
Both drinking water lead and mine cleanup were major hiccups for the Obama administration. In 2015, EPA contractors working on the Gold King Mine caused a massive blowout that sent 3 million gallons of wastewater into major rivers.
The next year, a top EPA official was forced to resign after it came to light the agency knew for months there were problems with lead in Flint, Mich.’s water, but did not warn the public.
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