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 HeitkampThe Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (N.D.) said she supports Scott Pruitt’s nomination to EPA administrator. A spokesman for Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Wealthy outsiders threaten to shake up GOP Senate primaries 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. 

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“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 Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy 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 BarrassoScalise: House, Senate ‘pretty close’ on tax bill Top GOP senator: House and Senate 'not that far apart' on tax bill Sunday shows preview: Republicans take victory lap on taxes 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 CarperAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Overnight Cybersecurity: Mueller probe cost .7M in early months | Senate confirms Homeland Security nominee | Consumer agency limits data collection | Arrest in Andromeda botnet investigation Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (D-Del.) said.

—Timothy Cama contributed.