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Republicans agree — it’s only a matter of time for Scott Pruitt

Republicans agree — it’s only a matter of time for Scott Pruitt
© Greg Nash

Remember the Road Runner cartoons? Every Saturday morning kids of my generation would watch as Wile E. Coyote would find new, creative ways to avoid learning the same basic lesson: the Road Runner played by a different set of rules. Inevitably, the Road Runner would lead the chase across some chasm and the coyote would realize, too late, that he was no longer standing on solid ground.

Appointed by a president who famously boasted he could “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone” without losing support, and long-funded by the powerful network of billionaire Republican kingmakers, the Kochs and Mercers, you can understand why EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Suspended EPA health official: Administration’s actions mean ‘kids are disposable’ Overnight Energy: Interior reprimands more than 1,500 for misconduct | EPA removes 22 Superfund sites from list | DOJ nominee on environment nears confirmation MORE would think the rules don’t apply to him.

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As the scandals mount week after week, it seems Pruitt belongs to a different, gravity-defying category. But recent rumblings from rural Americans, and the powerful Republican senators that represent them, show the ground under Pruitt’s feet is not as solid as he thinks. Soon enough, he’s going to look down and realize he’s far from the cliff’s edge.

 

And, Pruitt is very, very far out from the cliff’s edge. So, what’s kept him aloft so far? He claims he’s being attacked for merely implementing Trump’s agenda. But that’s not entirely true. Just ask key heartland GOP senators: What Pruitt is doing is certainly not what Trump promised heartland voters.

Experienced politicians like Iowa’s Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have been around long enough to understand that the rules of political gravity cannot be resisted forever. There are real jobs on the line in their home state and Pruitt’s moves to put his own Oklahoma political fortunes ahead of his fellow Republicans (and those of his boss) are eroding the last vestiges of his political support.

As we saw last week, there are plenty of Republicans and conservatives from the middle of the country who have turned on Pruitt. We’re keeping a running list here. Grassley noted that “Pruitt is ill serving the president of the United States.” Ernst said Pruitt “is about as swampy as you get here in Washington.”

Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said that “Pruitt needs to follow through with what the president promised to Iowans, and if he can’t, then we’ll need to find someone who will.” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThrough a national commitment to youth sports, we can break the obesity cycle Florida politics play into disaster relief debate GOP chairman: FEMA has enough money for Hurricane Michael MORE (R-S.D.) said that answering questions about Pruitt gets “old after a while,” and even Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGraham: 'Game changer' if Saudis behind journalist's disappearance GOP senators ask EPA to block states that have 'hijacked' rule to stop fossil fuel production Pentagon releases report on sexual assault risk MORE (R-Okla.) — Pruitt’s home state senator — said, “we’ve had enough.”

And sure, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and multiple GOP members of Congress have called for Pruitt to resign, but even some hardcore Trump supporters and leaders from the reddest parts of the country are joining the call to boot Pruitt from office. 

Iowa state Sen. Annette Sweeney, an early advisor to Trump’s campaign and a former Trump political appointee, said “our president needs to do some housekeeping items, and I think Mr. Pruitt needs to be one of those.” Dusty Johnson, the GOP nominee for the open House seat in South Dakota noted “there’s growing frustration in the Midwest between President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE and Administrator Pruitt.” Anderson County Kansas GOP Chairman Dane Hicks opined “farmers are demanding accountability, and I think that Mr. Pruitt probably is a dead man walking.”

Outside of the heartland, where Pruitt’s decisions are causing the most economic pain, dyed-in-the-wool conservatives — and friends of Trump — are calling on him to fire Pruitt. From the National Review editorial titled “Scott Pruitt Should Go,” to Laura Ingraham tweeting “PRUITT BAD JUDGEMENT HURTING @POTUS, GOTTA GO.”

In fairness, Pruitt has lasted far longer than many have predicted. We know he likes to gossip with Trump about his fellow cabinet member (and former GOP senator) Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsFBI investigated whether McCabe leaked info about Flynn and Trump to media Ex-Senate Intel staffer pleads guilty to lying to feds over contacts with journalists House Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein MORE. And maybe his cozy connections with the billionaire funders of the anti-environment fringe have temporarily kept gravity at bay. But Pruitt isn’t showing particular political deftness to counter his bad judgment. His recent heartland swing to show solidarity with family farmers (in loafers, of course), resulted in anti-Pruitt rallies attended by farmers and local GOP officials. And the fact that he kept everything secret and closed to the press shows that even his team knows his brand is toxic.

Pruitt is not doing any elected Republican any good. That’s a real problem in an election year, and will become the president’s problem when attention turns to 2020. Wile E. only hangs in mid-air for so long. Eventually, he looks down and realizes there’s nothing holding him up. Then comes the hard fall.

Mike Carr is the executive director of New Energy America, an organization that promotes clean energy jobs in rural America. Previously, he served as principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy.