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 PruittPelosi seizes on anti-corruption message against GOP Al Gore: Trump has had 'less of an impact on environment so far than I feared' Understanding EPA’s fuzzy math MORE to appear before the panel and explain his ethics and travel controversies.

In a letter sent to Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Trump EPA to defend Obama smog rule | Wheeler gets warmer welcome before Senate | Animal rights groups sue Interior over pro-hunting council EPA’s Wheeler gets warmer welcome at Senate hearing Trump has no plans to endorse in Tennessee GOP governor's race: report 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 CarperOvernight Energy: Trump elephant trophy tweets blindsided staff | Execs of chemical plant that exploded during hurricane indicted | Interior to reverse pesticide ban at wildlife refuges Overnight Defense: Officials make show of force on election security | Dems want probe into Air Force One tours | Pentagon believes Korean War remains 'consistent' with Americans Dems call for investigation of Trump Air Force One tours MORE (Del.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Defense: Officials make show of force on election security | Dems want probe into Air Force One tours | Pentagon believes Korean War remains 'consistent' with Americans Dems call for investigation of Trump Air Force One tours Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press MORE (R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyBipartisanship alive and well, protecting critical infrastructure Overnight Defense: Senate sends 7B annual defense bill to Trump's desk | US sanctions Turkish officials over detained pastor | Korean War remains headed to Hawaii | Senators reassure allies on NATO support Dem strategist: It's 'far-left thinking' to call for Nielsen's resignation MORE (Ore.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMake the moon a refueling station — then head to Mars Dems push FEMA on housing help for displaced Puerto Ricans Overnight Energy: Trump moves to roll back Obama auto emissions standards | California vows to sue | Senate Dem looks to block plan in Congress MORE (Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America Kavanaugh recommended against Clinton indictment in 1998: report Kavanaugh once said president would likely have to testify before grand jury if subpoenaed: report MORE (N.J.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandDemocrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America Border patrol chief: Calls to abolish ICE impact the morale of my team Kamala Harris tied with Bernie Sanders as betting favorite for 2020 Dems 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.