White House staff are considering replacing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt with his yet-to-be-confirmed deputy Andrew Wheeler, according to a source.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has pushed for Pruitt’s removal amid a flurry of negative press coverage, highlighting the former Oklahoma attorney general’s first class flights, living arrangements and giving raises to close staffers.
However, Pruitt would have no Trump-appointed successor to replace him since Wheeler, an energy lobbyist has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. But now, Republicans likely have the votes to get Wheeler into office, which has White House staff scheming.
A source familiar with the discussions said replacing Pruitt with Wheeler “was top of the mind” for some White House staffers.” The source suggested Kelly may be considering this option as well.
Wheeler has faced intense Democratic and environmentalist opposition to his nomination, making it doubtful he could get the votes required for confirmation. But two Democrats and one Republican say they will support Wheeler.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins told Politico on Tuesday she intended to back Wheeler. Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia also came out in support of Wheeler.
“Unless there is some new adverse information, based on my review of his record I do intend to support him,” said Collins, who voted against Pruitt’s confirmation last year.
Wheeler is an energy lobbyist at the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels. Before that, Wheeler served for 14 years on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and, before that, four years at the EPA under the Bush administration.
Calls for Pruitt’s resignation have intensified, and White House staff want the embattled EPA to step down, especially in the wake of reports two EPA staffers received raises despite objections from the White House.
Pruitt denied knowing about how the raises were given, and EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson took the blame for circumventing the White House to get substantial pay raises for two EPA political staffers.
Conservative groups and pundits, however, called on Trump to keep Pruitt at EPA given all the progress he’s made in rolling back Obama-era regulations.
“President Trump campaigned on reducing Washington’s bureaucracy, and Administrator Pruitt has been instrumental to that effort,” sixty leading conservatives wrote in a memo. “His leadership has helped President Trump keep his promises in a number of critical areas which conservatives support.”
So far, Trump has publicly supported Pruitt.
While Security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA. Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars. Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
The White House did not respond to TheDC’s request for comment.
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