A senior EPA official suggested Friday night that Administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenacity and willingness to fight back against accusations of wrongdoing will likely save him from getting canned.
President Donald Trump puts a high value on the ability of his official to beat back detractors, the official told Politico. Pruitt’s handling of Democrats during his congressional testimony on Thursday, the person added, will only elevate his position within the White House.
“They like fighters no matter what,” the person said of the Trump administration. “No matter what, fight. That’s what we’ve been conditioned to.” The source believes Trump’s takeaway from the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing is that Republicans on the panel supported Pruitt while Democrats spent too much time grilling him on his deregulatory record.
“Any audience would say the White House saw a Republican bench entirely supportive of him,” the EPA source said. “On the Democrat side, the White House also saw Democrats who used half their time to criticize policies he’s doing that the White House likes. If they wanted to land punches, why do you ask about these policies? That’s not going to do it for you.”
Republicans on the committee were generally supportive of Pruitt during Thursday’s hearing and pulled their punches on the EPA chief’s numerous ethical scandals.
One Republican on the committee, for instance, criticized a Democratic colleague for using the hearing to elevate his status. “A classic display of innuendo and McCarthyism,” Republican Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia said of some of the criticisms being leveled against Pruitt. McKinley added: “Some can’t resist the limelight.”
Pruitt faced far-ranging questions about his alleged ethical shortcomings. Democrats grilled him for allegedly paying $6,100 for a room in a condo owned by Vicki Hart, who is married to J. Steven Hart, an energy lobbyist who represents clients in industries regulated by the EPA. Payments to Hart came only on dates when the EPA administrator stayed in the room.
Democrats also teed-off on Pruitt’s flight expenses. Reports from The Washington Post, Politico, and others in February show taxpayers funded at least $90,000 for Pruitt and his top aides to fly in June, which included first-class seats and a ride on a military jet. The EPA maintains the flight upgrades were required due to an uptick in security threats Pruitt has faced during his first year in office.
Democrats grilled the former Oklahoma attorney general during the early part of the hearing, but eventually retreated to attacking Pruitt on his regulatory agenda, which Trump supports.
He successfully nixed the Clean Power Plan, convinced Trump to leave the Paris climate agreement, and more recently, crafted new, less-burdensome, greenhouse gas emission and mileage standards for vehicles to be built in 2022 through 2025. Pruitt’s rollbacks have saved the American taxpayer more than $1 billion, according to a EPA report in March.
He has almost single-handedly decommissioned former President Barack Obama’s entire environmental agenda. Pruitt moved to undo, delay or block, more than 30 environmental regulations during the first few months of his tenure, which began in January 2017. The rollbacks were more than any other administrator in the agency’s 47-year history over such a short period of time, according to a February 2017 report from The New York Times.
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