Dem Sens. Heitkamp, Manchin to support Trump EPA pick

Dem Sens. Heitkamp, Manchin to support Trump EPA pick

Two red-state Senate Democrats on Thursday said they will vote for President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. 

In a statement, Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSenate rejects Trump immigration plan Cramer to announce North Dakota Senate run on Friday Senate Democrats not sold on bipartisan immigration deal MORE (N.D.) said she supports Scott Pruitt’s nomination to EPA administrator. A spokesman for Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Toomey to introduce bill broadening background checks for firearms Scott Walker backs West Virginia attorney general in GOP Senate primary MORE said the West Virginian will also vote to confirm him.

“Once Mr. Pruitt is confirmed to lead EPA, I’ll work to make sure EPA focuses on smart regulation and works with states and local communities to address issues like the unworkable Waters of the U.S. rule and the punitive final Clean Power Plan rules,” Heitkamp said in a statement, referencing two controversial Obama-era EPA regulations. 

“Though I have concerns about his commitment to a comprehensive energy strategy that includes renewables and his commitment to reduce emissions to protect our air and water, I’ll work to hold Pruitt accountable and make sure North Dakota’s interests are heard.”

Both Heitkamp and Manchin are expected to face tough reelection fights in conservative, energy-producing states next year. Heitkamp said Thursday she will also support Trump’s picks to lead the Interior and Energy Departments. 

The Democrats’ support for Pruitt solidifies his standing ahead of a confirmation vote expected on Friday. 

Though GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday MORE (Maine) came out against Pruitt’s nomination on Wednesday, that defection will be offset by support from Heitkamp and Manchin, and no other Republican has said they will vote against Pruitt.

The Senate kicked off floor debate on Pruitt’s nomination on Thursday, with Republicans hailing him as a potential agent of change at the EPA. 

“Over the past eight years the political leaders of the EPA have taken actions that have undermined the American people’s faith in the agency,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoThe 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances Trump pick for EPA No. 2 | Pruitt questions ‘assumptions’ on climate | Dems want Pruitt recused from climate rule review Senate panel advances Trump pick for No. 2 official at EPA MORE (R-Wyo.) said. 

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt “worked to protect the environment in his state while also working for the benefit of the people,” Barrasso said.   

But Democrats say Pruitt will erode the agenda’s agenda and favor fossil fuel interests over that of the environment, noting his career suing the EPA during his tenure in Oklahoma.

“Never have I been forced to consider a candidate to lead the EPA who has been so focused throughout his career on crippling the agency he now hopes to lead," Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTrump states would bear brunt of gas tax increase: conservative groups Trump talk riles advocates on both sides of gas tax Senate bill would let EPA implement global greenhouse gas deal MORE (D-Del.) said.

—Timothy Cama contributed.