WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2017 - Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee suspended committee rules this morning and approved the nomination of Scott Pruitt to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Democrats on the panel did not show up for a second straight day, but that did not prove to be an obstacle to the GOP majority, which voted 11-0 to send the nomination of Pruitt, now the attorney general of Oklahoma, to the full Senate for a vote.
Committee Chairman John Barrasso said the suspension of the rules had been vetted by the Senate parliamentarian, who determined it was “proper under Senate rules.”
Democrats, led by ranking minority member Tom Carper of Delaware, had asked Barrasso to postpone the vote until Pruitt answered questions about potential conflicts of interest. They also are seeking emails from his time as Oklahoma attorney general.
Democrats immediately decried the committee action.
“This Groundhog Day, EPW Democrats are living the Bill Murray movie,” Carper said in a statement. “As far as I’m aware, we still have not received the relevant documents and the substantive answers we’ve requested from Mr. Pruitt. So it seems that the only thing that has changed is that it’s Thursday instead of Wednesday.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said Pruitt “needs to come clean with this committee and the American people about conflicts with the fossil fuel industry that he would regulate if confirmed.
“He’s dodged our questions, ignored our letters, and told us go to the back of the line and make open-records requests to get the information we are entitled to. There are at least 3,000 emails his office admits exist. Who knows how many other communications there are between his web of political committees, dark money groups, and fossil fuel companies.”
But Barrasso reiterated what he has repeatedly said over the past two days, as Democrats demanded more information ahead of the planned committee meeting – that Pruitt had answered more questions and been subject to a more extensive review than any other EPA administrator nominee in recent history.
“This committee has conducted an extremely thorough and fair process of reviewing Attorney General Pruitt’s nomination,” Barrasso said this morning before the committee vote.
The American Coalition for Ethanol was quick with congratulations for Pruitt.
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“If confirmed by the full Senate, we look forward to working with him to help keep the promises that President Trump made about ethanol, namely to ensure the successful implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard to drive the use of higher ethanol blends, to maintain the RFS point-of-obligation with refiners and importers, and to lift unnecessary restrictions on ethanol use such as the Reid vapor pressure limit.” ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings said in a release. “Further, we anticipate working with EPA to address other important issues and to lay the groundwork for additional ethanol demand based on performance metrics such as octane.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council criticized the committee move.
“It’s outrageous that Republicans jammed Scott Pruitt’s nomination through the Environment Committee,” NRDC President Rhea Suh said. “He’s blatantly obstructed a thorough review of his record. The full Senate should reject Pruitt’s nomination because he’s uniquely unfit for the job.”