GOP chairman backs Pruitt amid controversies

GOP chairman backs Pruitt amid controversies
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the Senate panel that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is standing by the agency’s embattled administrator pending the White House’s investigations into his recent controversies.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal Dems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants MORE (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, on Monday applauded Pruitt for his tenure so far at the EPA.

“Administrator [Scott] Pruitt has accomplished key priorities as head of the EPA,” Barrasso said in a statement. “With the support of the president, he has been instrumental in returning the agency to its original mission. American workers are benefiting from his reversal of punishing regulations.”

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Barrasso acknowledged that “certain questions have been raised” about Pruitt’s actions, referring to recent reports about Pruitt’s rental for $50 per day from a lobbyist last year, the raises his agency gave to two top aides after the White House rejected them, and aides who were reportedly punished after pushing back against his spending or management decisions.

“The White House has indicated it has taken on a formal review of these questions. I will wait for the outcome of that process,” Barrasso said.

Three GOP senators on Sunday news shows criticized Pruitt. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOn The Money: Senate Dems to introduce resolution blocking Trump emergency declaration | Banks made billion in extra profits thanks to GOP tax law | IRS analyst charged with leaking Cohen's financial records Senate Dems to introduce resolution blocking Trump's emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down MORE (R-Maine) said Pruitt “is the wrong person to head the EPA,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamActing Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump FBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it MORE (R-S.C.) said “this doesn’t look good,” and Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) told Pruitt to “stop acting like a chucklehead.”

Meanwhile, three House GOP lawmakers have joined numerous Democrats in calling for Pruitt to resign or be fired over the scandals: Reps. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloEx-GOP lawmaker joins marijuana trade group Dems think they're beating Trump in emergency declaration battle Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (Fla.), Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenComstock joins K Street firm Yoder, Messer land on K Street Ex-GOP lawmaker from Washington joins lobbying firm MORE (Fla.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikGOP announces members who will serve on House intel panel Bipartisan House group introduces bills to stall Syria, South Korea troop withdrawals House votes on 10th bill to reopen government MORE (N.Y.), all from tight districts being targeted by Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections.

The Senate is due to vote this week to confirm Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, to be Pruitt’s deputy at the EPA.