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Some Republicans are rallying around Pruitt

Some Republicans are rallying around Pruitt
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Key Republican lawmakers are lining up to support embattled Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTucker Carlson says he 'can't really' dine out anymore because people keep yelling at him Overnight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Suspended EPA health official: Administration’s actions mean ‘kids are disposable’ MORE amid numerous controversies about his spending and management.

The support comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East 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 BarrassoWhy grizzly bear hunting season isn’t happening Trump poised to sign bipartisan water infrastructure bill Dems to force health care vote weeks before Nov. midterms 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.

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“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 EnziOvernight Energy — Presented by Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance — Judge upholds Obama's marine monument | GOP lawmakers worried states using water rule to block fossil fuels | Lawmakers press Trump ahead of ethanol decision GOP senators ask EPA to block states that have 'hijacked' rule to stop fossil fuel production Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke 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 RoundsOn The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks GOP shrugs off dire study warning of global warming 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 CornynFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees 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 CruzFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown O'Rourke's mom discusses past Dem votes after labeled 'lifelong Republican' by son Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown MORE (R-Texas), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel GOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters The Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh, Ford saga approaches bitter end MORE (R-Okla.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks 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 CurbeloDems see blue 'tsunami' in House as Senate path narrows GOP spokeswoman says Republicans will lose House seats in midterms Cook Political Report shifts 7 more races towards Dems MORE (Fla.), Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenGOP group makes late play in Iowa seat once seen as lost Dems outraising Republicans in final stretch of midterms Electoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida MORE (Fla.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikCuomo: Driver in deadly limo crash did not have proper license Limo crash victims included family, friends going to birthday party at brewery Cook Political Report shifts 7 more races towards Dems MORE (N.Y.).

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

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh St. Lawrence alumni, faculty want honorary degree for Collins revoked 'Suspicious letter' mailed to Maine home of Susan Collins 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 GrahamSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Suspects in journalist's disappearance linked to Saudi crown prince: report Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' MORE (R-S.C.) said ABC’s “This Week,” referring to Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyHouse GOP sets deposition deadline for Fusion GPS co-founder Collusion bombshell: DNC lawyers met with FBI on Russia allegations before surveillance warrant Comey rejects request for closed-door interview with House Republicans 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