Dem Sens. Heitkamp, Manchin to support Trump EPA pick

Dem Sens. Heitkamp, Manchin to support Trump EPA pick

Two red-state Senate Democrats on Thursday said they will vote for President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. 

In a statement, Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWashington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill MORE (N.D.) said she supports Scott Pruitt’s nomination to EPA administrator. A spokesman for Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin lays down demands for child tax credit: report Democrats want to bolster working women, but face tortuous choices Buttigieg says delay in climate action will cost lives amid reports of Manchin roadblock MORE said the West Virginian will also vote to confirm him.

“Once Mr. Pruitt is confirmed to lead EPA, I’ll work to make sure EPA focuses on smart regulation and works with states and local communities to address issues like the unworkable Waters of the U.S. rule and the punitive final Clean Power Plan rules,” Heitkamp said in a statement, referencing two controversial Obama-era EPA regulations. 

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“Though I have concerns about his commitment to a comprehensive energy strategy that includes renewables and his commitment to reduce emissions to protect our air and water, I’ll work to hold Pruitt accountable and make sure North Dakota’s interests are heard.”

Both Heitkamp and Manchin are expected to face tough reelection fights in conservative, energy-producing states next year. Heitkamp said Thursday she will also support Trump’s picks to lead the Interior and Energy Departments. 

The Democrats’ support for Pruitt solidifies his standing ahead of a confirmation vote expected on Friday. 

Though GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators ask Biden administration to fund program that helps people pay heating bills McConnell gets GOP wake-up call Republicans are today's Dixiecrats MORE (Maine) came out against Pruitt’s nomination on Wednesday, that defection will be offset by support from Heitkamp and Manchin, and no other Republican has said they will vote against Pruitt.

The Senate kicked off floor debate on Pruitt’s nomination on Thursday, with Republicans hailing him as a potential agent of change at the EPA. 

“Over the past eight years the political leaders of the EPA have taken actions that have undermined the American people’s faith in the agency,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSunday shows preview: Senate votes to raise debt ceiling; Facebook whistleblower blasts company during testimony The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit Here are the 11 GOP senators who helped advance the debt extension MORE (R-Wyo.) said. 

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt “worked to protect the environment in his state while also working for the benefit of the people,” Barrasso said.   

But Democrats say Pruitt will erode the agenda’s agenda and favor fossil fuel interests over that of the environment, noting his career suing the EPA during his tenure in Oklahoma.

“Never have I been forced to consider a candidate to lead the EPA who has been so focused throughout his career on crippling the agency he now hopes to lead," Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperIs the Biden administration afraid of trade? Congress sends 30-day highway funding patch to Biden after infrastructure stalls Senate to try to pass 30-day highway bill Saturday after GOP objection MORE (D-Del.) said.

—Timothy Cama contributed.