Senate Dems call for new committee hearing on Pruitt's ethics concerns

Senate Dems call for new committee hearing on Pruitt's ethics concerns
© Camille Fine

Six Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are calling for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA moving ahead with science transparency rule by 'early next year' Overnight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Trump administration to repeal waterway protections MORE to appear before the panel and explain his ethics and travel controversies.

In a letter sent to Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTo stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP senator: Iran is behind attack on Saudi Arabia MORE (R-Wyo.) Tuesday, the senators highlighted Pruitt's spending on travel abroad, pay raises for political aides and his 24-hour security detail as reasons for the new hearing. Pruitt already testified before the panel on April 26.

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"Administrator Pruitt’s testimony, viewed in the most charitable light, depicted a chief executive who has failed to exert any oversight over his staff as they have, as he testified, spent exorbitant funds and made impactful personnel decisions without his knowledge or approval,” the senators wrote. “His ready willingness to pass blame on to everyone around him, including career staff and his top political aides, shows that he is either unwilling or unable to lead.”

The senators noted that Pruitt has yet to testify before the panel on this year's or next year's budget, and they accused him of offering testimony that had been contradicted by earlier testimony and documents in his previous appearance. 

"While we may disagree on the policy choices made by Administrator Pruitt, we hope we can agree that cabinet officials of any party owe Congress clear and truthful answers to questions and should be held to the highest ethical standards as Administrator Pruitt himself acknowledged last week," the senators wrote in their letter.  

"We should also be able to agree that claims of accountability are meaningless unless they can be credibly backed up by meaningful oversight and investigations of misconduct." 

Democratic Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperInstead of raising the gas tax, stop wasting money on frivolous projects To stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists MORE (Del.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump eyes narrowly focused response to Iran attacks Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Senate GOP pledges to oppose any efforts to 'pack' Supreme Court MORE (R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week Bipartisan group of senators urges FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes MORE (Ore.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMarkey challenges Democratic Senate campaign opponents to climate change debate Kennedy launches primary challenge against Markey Markey fundraises ahead of Kennedy primary challenge MORE (Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerPressure on Pelosi to impeach Trump grows DNC raises qualifying thresholds for fifth presidential debate Biden extends lead over Warren, Sanders MORE (N.J.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDNC raises qualifying thresholds for fifth presidential debate The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump defends call as Ukraine controversy deepens New Hampshire feels overlooked in Democratic presidential race MORE (N.Y.) signed the letter.

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Pruitt is slated to testify on Wednesday before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

Carper, the ranking member on the Environment and Public Works panel, told reporters Tuesday that he was disappointed that Pruitt would not also be coming before his committee in addition to the Appropriations subcommittee.

"My only disappointment is that it's not before the Environment and Public Works and my hope is that before long it will be because there is plenty to talk to him about," Carper said. "It's not just concerning to Democrats, its' also to a lot of Republicans. And maybe sooner rather than later they'll find their voices."

The EPA's inspector general sent a letter to Carper and Whitehouse on Monday in response to a request the two senators had previously sent about Pruitt's use of a 24/7 security team.

The inspector general said that Pruitt has been using the security detail since the day he started as EPA administrator. The letter appeared to contradict Pruitt’s testimony before the House that threats made against him during his time as administrator were the reason for the detail.