Pruitt to testify before Senate panel in August

Pruitt to testify before Senate panel in August
© Greg Nash

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer Watchdog: EPA hasn't provided 'sufficient justification' for decision not to recover Pruitt travel spending OVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower says California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' | EPA won't defend policy blocking grantees from serving on boards | Minnesota sues Exxon, others over climate change MORE is slated to testify in August in front of the main Senate committee that oversees the agency, the panel announced Tuesday.

The committee scheduled the hearing following months of spending and ethics controversies involving Pruitt. Senate Democrats have long sought to put Pruitt in the hot seat over the scandals, and Republicans are expressing increasing concern as well.

“The hearing will give senators the opportunity to ask important questions and hear about the work being done at the agency,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump nominates controversial, longtime acting head of BLM as director | Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee | Massive dust storm from Africa hits Texas, Louisiana Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee Cruz urges Trump to support Israeli annexation MORE (R-Wyo.), the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement Tuesday.

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Barrasso did not specify a date in August for the hearing, and the committee said it will be set later.

A handful of GOP senators on the panel — including Sens. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Senate rejects Paul proposal on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP MORE (Okla.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump renews culture war, putting GOP on edge The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory Senate outlook slides for GOP MORE (Iowa) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanBottom line US security starts in the Arctic Senate confirms nation's first African American service chief MORE (Alaska) — have pushed in recent days for Pruitt to come before the committee.

It will be Pruitt’s first time at the environment committee since January and his first congressional hearing since May, which preceded a fresh wave of reports raising ethical questions surrounding the EPA chief's actions.

The reports and accusations regarding Pruitt in recent months have included that he rented a condo from a lobbyist for just $50 for each night he spent there, spent $43,000 on a soundproof booth for his office, spent $3.5 million on an unprecedented security detail and had aides or security staff do personal tasks like helping his wife find a job and trying to find a used Trump International Hotel mattress.

Barrasso and other GOP senators have generally stood by Pruitt and have not called for him to resign, arguing that his policy efforts at the EPA are valuable and it would be difficult to confirm a replacement. But their concerns about the allegations against him have grown louder recently.

“I think something needs to happen to change that,” Inhofe said last week on a radio show, referring to the controversies. “One of those alternatives would be for him to leave that job.”

Democrats, meanwhile, have repeatedly called on Pruitt to be fired or resign due to the scandals.

“Mr. Pruitt is an embarrassment. It is a stain on our democracy that he still holds this once esteemed position,” Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperHillicon Valley: Facebook to label 'newsworthy' posts that violate policies | Unilever to pull ads from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram | FEC commissioner steps down Senate Democrats push federal agencies to combat coronavirus scams and robocalls The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Mark Takano says Congress must extend worker benefits expiring in July; WHO reports record spike in global cases MORE (Del.), the committee’s top Democrat, said earlier this month.

"And it is an abject failure that so many Republicans in Congress have chosen to turn a blind eye to the seemingly endless ethical shortcomings that should have led to Mr. Pruitt’s removal a long time ago.”