Conservatives Will Have A Hard Time Ditching Scott Pruitt

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Conservative lawmakers and the White House will face significant challenges if Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt is fired.

Pruitt landed himself in hot water after a flurry of coverage focused on his consistent purchasing of first class airfare tickets on the public dime, possibly violating federal gifting laws by paying low market rent to an energy lobbyist while in Washington D.C. and giving two of his staffers pay raises despite the objections of the White House.

The stories prompted some White House officials to say anonymously Monday that Pruitt may be on his way out the door. However, President Donald Trump reportedly called him to express support amid the public relations storm Monday night. White House chief of staff John Kelly also spoke with Pruitt Tuesday morning, the White House confirmed.

Trump said of Pruitt Tuesday, “I hope he’s going to be great.”

“The president likes him and likes what he’s doing,” an administration official familiar with Pruitt and Trump’s relationship told The Daily Caller. Pruitt has been especially successful in enacting regulatory rollback at the EPA that has won widespread praise from conservative activists.

Activists pointed to Pruitt’s repeal of Obama-era regulations on clean coal, coal powered plants, water usage rules, standards for automakers, mining rules and cleaning up superfund sites. The administrator also ended the use of “secret science” mandating that data used to justify rules and regulations must be publicly available.

Beyond ideological considerations is a major procedural roadblock. A longtime Capitol Hill leadership veteran told TheDC “it would be almost impossible to imagine the Senate confirming any other administrator at this point.”

The Capitol Hill veteran said that Pruitt is extremely well-liked by Republican senators who appreciate his responsiveness to their queries and their satisfaction with his ability to overturn Obama-era regulations so quickly.

Senators also must consider the pending nominations of three new Trump appointees: Admiral Ronny Jackson to be the next secretary of Veterans Affairs, Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and Gina Haspel as CIA director.