Some Republicans are rallying around Pruitt

Some Republicans are rallying around Pruitt
© UPI Photo

Key Republican lawmakers are lining up to support embattled Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Architect of controversial EPA policies to return as chief of staff: report EPA asked to justify proposal to limit power of its science advisers MORE amid numerous controversies about his spending and management.

The support comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE signaled he’s in no hurry to replace Pruitt, and as conservative commentators offer support on television and social media for an EPA chief who has sought to roll back regulations pursued by the Obama administration.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenators to meet with Zelensky after impeachment trial GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' What the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber MORE (R-Wyo.), who chairs the committee that oversees the EPA, indicated that he’s proud of Pruitt’s work at the agency and said he would hold off on any comment until the White House has thoroughly examined the issues at hand.


“Certain questions have been raised about internal operations of the agency and the administrator’s actions,” he said. “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, who was accompanied by Pruitt and Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziLawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Republicans scramble to avoid Medicare land mine McConnell will not bring budget resolution to the floor MORE (R-Wyo.) last week on a tour of a massive coal mine in Wyoming, also said the EPA chief had been “instrumental in returning the agency to its original mission.”

“American workers are benefiting from his reversal of punishing regulations,” he added.

“He’s following through with what the policies the president said he wanted to implement,” Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsTrump pick for Fed seat takes bipartisan fire Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle Overnight Defense: Trump rolls back restrictions on land mines | Pentagon issues guidance on coronavirus | Impeachment trial nears end after Senate rejects witnesses MORE (R-S.D.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Rounds said the criticisms of Pruitt amount to nitpicking.

“Oh, he has too big of a security detail? Is that suddenly the reason why you fire someone?” he asked.

That he uses a large security deal is just one of the issues for which Pruitt is under scrutiny.

Pruitt is under fire for renting a room from the wife of an energy lobbyist for $50 per day, a sum he only paid for the nights when he actually slept in the Capitol Hill condo.

His agency also gave raises to two top aides despite the White House rejecting Pruitt’s request, and Pruitt allegedly punished five officials for objecting to his spending and management decisions. 

On Monday, The Atlantic reported that Sarah Greenwalt, Pruitt’s senior counsel, sent an internal email last month saying Pruitt wanted her to get a significant pay raise. 

That contradicted what Pruitt told Fox News's Ed Henry last week, which was that he did not know that the EPA used a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act to increase her pay after the White House didn’t approve it.

Those are in addition to months-long criticisms about his spending, including that he took frequent first-class flights and kept a security detail costing millions of dollars.

Toward the end of last week, it appeared Pruitt’s time at the EPA might be coming to an end. But that was before Trump offered public support, something that has been noted by Republicans in Congress.

“It looks like the president has gone out of his way to say he has confidence in him, so I just have to assume that he’s sticking around until we hear to the contrary,” said Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynBooker, Cornyn introduce bill to fund school nutrition programs Three Senate primaries to watch on Super Tuesday Democrats seek to drive wedge between Trump, GOP on whistleblowers MORE (R-Texas).

The president tweeted Saturday that Pruitt’s security costs are justified, his rent was “about market rate” and his travel expenses are “OK.” “Scott is doing a great job,” he concluded.

Even before Trump’s weekend tweet, allies of Pruitt were offering support.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who worked with Pruitt in his home state, heaped praise on him.

“Since being sworn in, Administrator Pruitt has been instrumental in carrying out President Trump’s deregulatory agenda at the EPA — ending the war on fossil fuels, repealing [the Clean Water Rule], exiting the Paris agreement and announcing new fuel emissions standards,” he said in a statement. “He’s been an effective member of the president’s team, and I look forward to continuing to work with him to restore the EPA to its proper size and scope.”

Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz 'impresses' his daughter with Chris Evans meeting Three Senate primaries to watch on Super Tuesday The advantage of paying for medical care directly MORE (R-Texas), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle The Hill's Morning Report - Trump defense rests, GOP struggles to bar witnesses GOP confident of win on witnesses MORE (R-Okla.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPelosi names first-ever House whistleblower ombudsman director The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' MORE (R-Ky.) also put out supportive statements.

Pruitt still faces criticism and scrutiny.

The head of the Office of Government Ethics has scolded the EPA for its handling of the various potential ethical breaches.

“The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and appropriately addressed,” acting Director David Apol wrote.

Apol doesn’t have the ability to punish Pruitt. But he said it is imperative that the EPA thoroughly investigate the controversies.

Three House Republicans have called for Pruitt to resign or be fired: 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-LehtinenVeronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Former GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company MORE (Fla.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump basks in acquittal; Dems eye recanvass in Iowa Trump holds White House 'celebration' for impeachment acquittal Trump on Jim Jordan: 'He's obviously very proud of his body' MORE (N.Y.).

And on Sunday, three GOP senators added to the criticisms.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsToward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates Trump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (Maine), the only Republican to vote against Pruitt’s nomination last year, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Pruitt, “on policy grounds alone ... is the wrong person to head the EPA.”

“Stop acting like a chucklehead,” Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) implored on NBC’s “Face the Nation.”

“Why do you want to rent an apartment from a lobbyist for God’s sake? Stop leading with your chin. Now these are unforced errors. They are stupid,” Kennedy continued.

“I think he’s done a good job, but I’m looking to see what the [House] Oversight Committee is going to say,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamUS defense chief says Taliban deal 'looks very promising' but not without risk Lawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban Graham requests interviews with DOJ, FBI officials as part of probe into Russia investigation MORE (R-S.C.) said ABC’s “This Week,” referring to Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdySunday shows preview: 2020 Democrats jockey for top spot ahead of Nevada caucuses Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Green says House shouldn't hold impeachment articles indefinitely MORE’s (R-S.C.) investigation into Pruitt’s rental. “The one thing I can say, if you’re the EPA administrator and two lobbyists change the locks, you’ve got a problem. The bottom line is this doesn’t look good.”

Jordain Carney contributed