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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 HeitkampBill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Harrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment MORE (N.D.) said she supports Scott Pruitt’s nomination to EPA administrator. A spokesman for Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS Five takeaways from Biden's first budget proposal Parkland parent pressures Manchin on gun reform: 'You represent the nation' 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 CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Biden-GOP infrastructure talks off to rocky start Moderate GOP senators and Biden clash at start of infrastructure debate 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: Democrats eye passage of infrastructure bill; health experts warn of fourth coronavirus wave Lack of cyber funds in Biden infrastructure plan raises eyebrows As Congress considers infrastructure, don't forget rural America 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 CarperFive reasons why US faces chronic crisis at border Appeals court agrees to pause lawsuit over Trump-era emissions rule Five things to watch on Biden infrastructure plan MORE (D-Del.) said.

—Timothy Cama contributed.