Overnight Energy: Dems delay vote on Pruitt | GOP options for breaking deadlock | House votes to undo two Obama rules

Overnight Energy: Dems delay vote on Pruitt | GOP options for breaking deadlock | House votes to undo two Obama rules
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PROBLEMS FOR PRUITT: Senate Democrats boycotted the committee vote Wednesday on Scott Pruitt's nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), successfully delaying his confirmation, for the time being.

None of the Environment and Public Works Committee Democrats showed up to Wednesday morning's business meeting, denying Republicans the quorum that they needed to take a vote.

Instead, the Democrats, led by ranking member Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act Full interview: Democratic candidate Kerri Evelyn Harris discusses her Senate campaign in Delaware MORE (Del.), held court outside the room to explain they believe Pruitt has not been fully forthcoming with the panel and cannot take a vote.

"This is kind of an affront to the Senate's role in advising and consenting to the president's nominations," Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) told reporters outside the meeting room. "I will not participate in any way possible with moving someone along who has not allowed a thorough vetting."

Their specific problems revolve around Pruitt's involvement in political groups that the Democrats labeled as "dark money" groups, and his office's backlog in providing answers to an open records request for Pruitt's communications with fossil fuel companies.

"We are being totally stonewalled on two very reasonable, very specific factual requests that any, any nominee ought to produce," said Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate panel advances Trump IRS nominee Senate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Who is Andrew Wheeler, EPA's new acting chief? MORE (D-R.I.).

"And I can assure you that if the shoe were on the other foot, Republicans would be howling about the emails," he continued, comparing the situation to the controversies surrounding Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin Anti-Trump protests outside White House continue into fifth night Opera singers perform outside White House during fourth day of protests MORE's emails during the 2016 presidential election.

The Republicans, led by Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoThe law to protect endangered species in America is working Republican bill aims to deter NATO members from using Russian pipeline Overnight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms MORE (R-Wyo.), pulled no punches in their criticisms of their colleagues, taking the opportunity of a full committee room to tear into them.

Barrasso called the Democrats' boycott "political theater."

Pruitt's hearing "was historic in its length of time for member questions to the nominee," he said.

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTrump’s policies, actions create divide on Russia New EPA chief draws sharp contrast to Pruitt Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs MORE (R-Okla.) read a list of lengthy questions Democrats asked of the nominee after his hearing, including requests for information dating back 20 years.

"He answered 1,000 more questions than any other administrator nominee in the last three presidential administrations," Inhofe said.

"It's time, I think, that we move on and get him voted out, and he will make a great administrator of the EPA and a refreshing change."

Read more here.

'Go FOIA yourself': The Democrats pointed to the numerous times that Pruitt -- in written answers to questions they posed to him regarding his time as Oklahoma's attorney general -- told senators that they should file requests under Oklahoma's Open Records Act, the state version of a Freedom of Information Act.

Or, as Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Hillicon Valley: Mueller indicts Russians for DNC hack | US officially lifts ZTE ban | AT&T CEO downplays merger challenge | Microsoft asks for rules on facial recognition technology | Dems want probe into smart TVs Dems push FTC to investigate smart TVs over privacy concerns MORE (D-Mass.) put it: "What he continues to say is, 'Go FOIA yourself.'"

At least one person has been waiting more than two years on a records request at Pruitt's office.

GOP to try again Thursday: Barrasso announced later Wednesday that the panel will try again with the Pruitt vote Thursday.

He did not say how Republicans will try to make the vote happen.

"I have great confidence that Scott Pruitt will be brought out of the EPW committee and he will get confirmed by the whole Senate," Barrasso said in a brief interview.

He had said earlier in the day that he would meet with Carper to try to hammer out some agreement.

Barrasso's options: Barrasso has a number of options for moving Pruitt forward, apart from an agreement with Democrats to have a normal vote.

He could move to change the committee's rules to declare that the GOP alone could establish a quorum, a tactic that the Senate Finance Committee took Wednesday to advance the confirmations of Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin and Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Price.

He could reinterpret the rules as written to declare that the 11 Republicans can already count as a quorum. Democrats threatened a similar move in 2013 when the GOP tried to block a vote on Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyLawmakers rally to keep Pruitt from transparently restricting science EPA says it abandoned plan for office in Pruitt’s hometown Overnight Energy: Pruitt blames staff for controversies | Ex-Obama official to head new Harvard climate center | Electric vehicles on road expected to triple MORE as EPA administrator.

Lastly, Barrasso may try to get the full Senate to vote on Pruitt without going through committee. It's unclear what rule changes, if any, would be required for that strategy.

CONGRESS POISED TO KILL MINING RULE: The House passed Congressional Review Act resolutions killing two Obama-era regulations on Wednesday.

The Senate is set to pass one of those resolutions, undoing the Interior Department's Stream Protection Rule, on Wednesday night, meaning the regulation is due to come off the books as soon as President Trump signs the bill.

"This is poor procedure that has produced a poor rule, which will result in poor policy," House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopDefense Department walks back opposition to sage grouse amendment More than 100 Dems oppose GOP efforts to change endangered species law Western lawmakers introduce bills to amend Endangered Species Act MORE (R-Utah) said of the bill during floor debate on Wednesday.

Regulators tried to finalize the Stream Protection Rule for most of Obama's presidency. When they finally did so in December, Republicans promised to try using the CRA -- a rarely successful procedure -- to strip the rule off the books and block a future regulation similar to it.

With majorities in the House and Senate -- CRA resolutions cannot be filibustered -- and a Republican president, the GOP is on the verge of doing in the rule.

"The Stream Protection Rule is not about protecting streams," Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) said. "It was designed for one purpose: to regulate the coal industry out of business. It was the centerpiece of the Obama administration's war on coal."

The House also approved a resolution undoing a Securities and Exchange Commission financial disclosure rule for drilling and mining firms.

Democrats object to using the CRA to stop the rules, both because they broadly support the regulations and they are concerned about the permanency of a CRA measure.

"You turn back the clock to what was, and usually there was nothing," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said. "You effectively then prevent, in the future, any means to address that problem. I think it's cowardly to do it this way and not have a full debate on the merits."

Read more here.

DAKOTA ACCESS MOVING FORWARD: Federal officials late Tuesday nudged the Dakota Access pipeline one step closer to completion.

The acting secretary of the Army has instructed federal officials to issue the easement necessary to build a controversial segment of the pipeline. The Army Corps of Engineers has not issued the easement yet, but Acting Secretary Robert Speer's order lays the groundwork for that to happen.

"It's time to get to work and finish this important piece of energy infrastructure enhancing America's energy security and putting North Dakotans and Americans back to work," Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in a statement on Tuesday night.

The move comes a week after Trump signed a presidential memorandum calling for the easement to be issued and the project to move forward.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which opposes the project, vowed to fight any easement in court.

"The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will vigorously pursue legal action to ensure the environmental impact statement order issued late last year is followed so the pipeline process is legal, fair and accurate," a statement from the tribe said.

Read more here, and read Speer's order here.

MCCARTHY WADES INTO EPA FIGHT: Former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy is speaking out against the Trump administration's approach to the agency she led until last month.

"The signs I'm seeing now are extremely disappointing," Gina McCarthy said in a Boston Globe interview published late Tuesday, her first interview since leaving the agency.

In the interview, she said she was worried about communications crackdowns at the agency, as well as proposals to run government science through political appointees before publishing it.

"The implication that political people would have to review the science before it was articulated is disturbing," she told the Globe. "If the science changes because of politics, that's not science."

McCarthy said she never heard from Trump's EPA transition and hasn't met with EPA nominee Scott Pruitt.

Read more here.


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will let the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts keep running despite recently disclosed flaws, the Boston Herald reports.

The Seattle City Council is considering pulling billions of dollars of city funds out of Wells Fargo due to the bank lending money for the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Seattle Times reports.

The snowpack in California's Sierra Nevada mountains is the largest it's been in 22 years, a positive sign for a region suffering through a years-long drought, the San Jose Mercury News reports.


Check out Wednesday's stories ...

-House votes to strike down two Obama-era rules
-Senate confirms Tillerson as secretary of State
-Dems boycott committee vote on Trump's EPA pick
-Former Obama EPA chief: Trump approach is 'extremely disappointing'
-Army Corps told to clear way for Dakota Access construction

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