Senate advances Trump’s EPA pick

Senate advances Trump’s EPA pick
© Greg Nash

The Senate is moving forward with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

The chamber voted 54-46 to advance Pruitt’s nomination, clearing the simple majority needed. Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (D-N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Senate Dems lose forced vote against EPA power plant rule Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever MORE (D-W.Va.) were the only Democrats to vote in favor of cloture on Pruitt's nomination, joining all 52 Republicans.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes MORE (R-Maine) on Wednesday became the only Republican senator to announce that she would oppose Pruitt, though she voted in favor of cloture for his nomination on Thursday.

Collins — who has voted against other Trump Cabinet nominees — told a local Maine radio station that she had concerns about how Pruitt would be able to run an agency he had spent much of his time as Oklahoma's top lawyer opposing and suing. 

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"His actions leave me with considerable doubts about whether his vision for the EPA is consistent with the agency's critical mission to protect health and the environment," she said. 

Pruitt's vote went forward despite a failed eleventh-hour effort by Democrats to delay it because of a pending court case involving email records. 

Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee, led by Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperInstead of raising the gas tax, stop wasting money on frivolous projects To stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists MORE (D-Del.), said that emails Pruitt’s office is likely to release publicly soon may be important in considering his nomination.

“These records are needed for the Senate to evaluate Mr. Pruitt’s suitability to serve in the position for which he has been nominated," the Democrats wrote in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhite House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours The Memo: Trump's sea of troubles deepens McConnell: Trump's troop pull back in Syria a 'grave strategic mistake' MORE (R-Ky). 

But McConnell praised Pruitt on Thursday as a "welcome change" from the Obama administration, which he argued negatively impacted coal families in his home state of Kentucky. 

"Pruitt thinks it's time for the EPA to get back clean air and clean water business," he said. "And to do so with an appreciation for the complexity of our modern world, with awareness of the broader economy, with compassion toward those impacted." 

Thursday's vote sets up a final vote as early as Friday. 

McConnell warned senators Wednesday that they should expect to stay in session through Friday afternoon, but a group of roughly a dozen senators are expected to leave for a security conference in Germany.