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 rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns Lobbying world 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 CollinsGOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Senate eyes quick exit after vote on coronavirus stimulus package MORE (R-Maine) said Pruitt “is the wrong person to head the EPA,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump reviews Pelosi on morning TV: 'She wasn't bad' Encryption helps America work safely – and that goes for Congress, too Graham: Pelosi comment on Trump is 'most shameful, disgusting statement by any politician in modern history' 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 CurbeloRepublicans can't exploit the left's climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign The Memo: Bad polls for Trump shake GOP MORE (Fla.), Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenWomen are refusing to take the backseat in politics, especially Latinas Watchdog groups call for investigation into Ros-Lehtinen's foreign lobbying work Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm MORE (Fla.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHispanic Caucus campaign arm unveils non-Hispanic endorsements Congress tiptoes toward remote voting The myth about Puerto Rican statehood that won't go away 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.