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 PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas 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 BarrassoTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Push to change wildlife act sparks lobbying blitz House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill 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 InhofeTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Steady Kavanaugh proves to be a tough target for Democrats MORE (Okla.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP senator divorcing from husband GOP senators introduce bill to preserve ObamaCare's pre-existing conditions protections Pence: Trump’s national security will be as 'dominant' in space as it is on Earth MORE (Iowa) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanCruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke Spotlight shifts to Kavanaugh ahead of hearings GOP senator: Trump firing Sessions wouldn't be 'politically wise' 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 CarperOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Super PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms 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.”