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 HeitkampVirginia loss lays bare Democrats' struggle with rural voters Washington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight MORE (D-N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSchumer steps on the gas to move Biden agenda Overnight Health Care — Biden touts drug price push Biden points to drug prices in call for Senate social spending vote 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 CollinsPhotos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Real relief from high gas prices The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron 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.
"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 CarperThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Omicron tests vaccines; Bob Dole dies at 98 Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Dems seek to preserve climate provisions Democrats wrangle to keep climate priorities in spending bill 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 McConnellDole in final column: 'Too many of us have sacrificed too much' Schumer steps on the gas to move Biden agenda Hoyer says Dec. 15 is drop-dead deadline to hike debt ceiling 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.