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 BarrassoTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Push to change wildlife act sparks lobbying blitz House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill 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 CollinsGrassley panel scraps Kavanaugh hearing, warns committee will vote without deal Collins 'appalled' by Trump tweet about Kavanaugh accuser Poll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it MORE (R-Maine) said Pruitt “is the wrong person to head the EPA,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKim, Moon toss ball to Trump in ‘last, best chance’ for Korean peace GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday 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 CurbeloGOP, White House start playing midterm blame game The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Cuomo wins and Manafort plea deal Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless MORE (Fla.), Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenCook moves status of 6 House races as general election sprint begins The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Cuomo wins and Manafort plea deal Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash MORE (Fla.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikNumber of GOP women in House could fall to World War II levels, Republican CEO says GOP lacks good funding mechanism for women candidates, says Republican CEO Pelosi calls on Ryan to bring long-term Violence Against Women Act to floor 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.