Senate Dems call for new committee hearing on Pruitt's ethics concerns

Senate Dems call for new committee hearing on Pruitt's ethics concerns
© Camille Fine

Six Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are calling for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittPruitt’s new problem with the GOP: Ethanol Harvard scientists: Trump environmental policies could result in 80,000 more deaths per decade Overnight Energy: New controversies cap rough week for Pruitt | Trump 'not happy about certain things' with Pruitt | EPA backtracks on suspending pesticide rule MORE to appear before the panel and explain his ethics and travel controversies.

In a letter sent to Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoGOP chairman seeks ‘sufficient’ funding for EPA watchdog office Ernst, Fischer to square off for leadership post Trump calls into Senate GOP lunch to discuss North Korea MORE (R-Wyo.) Tuesday, the senators highlighted Pruitt's spending on travel abroad, pay raises for political aides and his 24-hour security detail as reasons for the new hearing. Pruitt already testified before the panel on April 26.

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"Administrator Pruitt’s testimony, viewed in the most charitable light, depicted a chief executive who has failed to exert any oversight over his staff as they have, as he testified, spent exorbitant funds and made impactful personnel decisions without his knowledge or approval,” the senators wrote. “His ready willingness to pass blame on to everyone around him, including career staff and his top political aides, shows that he is either unwilling or unable to lead.”

The senators noted that Pruitt has yet to testify before the panel on this year's or next year's budget, and they accused him of offering testimony that had been contradicted by earlier testimony and documents in his previous appearance. 

"While we may disagree on the policy choices made by Administrator Pruitt, we hope we can agree that cabinet officials of any party owe Congress clear and truthful answers to questions and should be held to the highest ethical standards as Administrator Pruitt himself acknowledged last week," the senators wrote in their letter.  

"We should also be able to agree that claims of accountability are meaningless unless they can be credibly backed up by meaningful oversight and investigations of misconduct." 

Democratic Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperLawmakers prep for coming wave of self-driving cars Overnight Energy: Pruitt used security detail to run errands | Dems want probe into Pruitt's Chick-fil-A dealings | Yellowstone superintendent says he was forced out Dems seek watchdog probe into Pruitt’s Chick-fil-A dealings MORE (Del.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseGAO to look into Trump's reduction of carbon social costs Overnight Energy: Pruitt used security detail to run errands | Dems want probe into Pruitt's Chick-fil-A dealings | Yellowstone superintendent says he was forced out Dems seek watchdog probe into Pruitt’s Chick-fil-A dealings MORE (R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyMerkley leads Dem lawmakers to border amid migrant policy outcry DHS secretary defends Trump administration's migrant policies Trump faces Father’s Day pleas to end separations of migrant families MORE (Ore.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyLawmakers prep for coming wave of self-driving cars Trump taps Hill veteran for White House environment job Dems unveil push to secure state voting systems MORE (Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerMembers of Congress demand new federal gender pay audit The Hill's Morning Report — Can the economy help Republicans buck political history in 2018? Sanders gets best reception at early 2020 audition MORE (N.J.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandCongress must confront sexual abuse of military children The Hill's Morning Report — Can the economy help Republicans buck political history in 2018? Sanders gets best reception at early 2020 audition MORE (N.Y.) signed the letter.

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Pruitt is slated to testify on Wednesday before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

Carper, the ranking member on the Environment and Public Works panel, told reporters Tuesday that he was disappointed that Pruitt would not also be coming before his committee in addition to the Appropriations subcommittee.

"My only disappointment is that it's not before the Environment and Public Works and my hope is that before long it will be because there is plenty to talk to him about," Carper said. "It's not just concerning to Democrats, its' also to a lot of Republicans. And maybe sooner rather than later they'll find their voices."

The EPA's inspector general sent a letter to Carper and Whitehouse on Monday in response to a request the two senators had previously sent about Pruitt's use of a 24/7 security team.

The inspector general said that Pruitt has been using the security detail since the day he started as EPA administrator. The letter appeared to contradict Pruitt’s testimony before the House that threats made against him during his time as administrator were the reason for the detail.