A BIG DAY FOR PRUITT: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Trump-era EPA board member sues over firing EPA bans use of pesticide linked to developmental problems in children MORE is heading to the House Thursday for a pair of hotly anticipated hearings.
In the morning, Pruitt will be at the Energy and Commerce Committee's environment subcommittee. After lunch, he'll go to the Appropriations Committee's subpanel that oversees the EPA's budget.
Both hearings are supposed to be to examine Pruitt's budget request for 2019, but expect that to be a very minor focus.
It's the first time Pruitt will sit in front of either committee since the recent controversies involving him broke, such as his rental of a house from a lobbyist last year for $50 for each night he slept there, his lavish spending in areas like security and travel and raises he gave to two aides despite the White House refusing to approve them.
Democrats have been chomping at the bit to question Pruitt in a formal setting.
"I think we need to get the answers to a lot of these questions. There's enough concerns out there of misconduct, so I'm sure everyone is going to have their area that they want to review," said Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoUsing shared principles to guide our global and national energy policy WHIP LIST: How House Democrats, Republicans say they'll vote on infrastructure bill Manchin puts foot down on key climate provision in spending bill MORE (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce subpanel.
But some Republicans are also hoping to get answers on the controversies. The GOP initially saw them as distractions, but as they've grown, lawmakers have started to complain that they could get in the way of Pruitt policies that they support.
"So I think you'll see a lot of members talk policy issues, but I also think you'll see members, even Republican members, talk about, obviously, the laundry list of stories," said Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusGOP ekes out win in return of Congressional Baseball Game Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Lobbying world MORE (R-Ill.), the same subcommittee's chairman.
What Pruitt will say: The Energy and Commerce committee Wednesday released Pruitt's prepared remarks, and they don't mention the controversies at all.
Instead, the remarks center around the actual topic of the hearing: Pruitt's budget request.
"Over the past year as administrator, I've witnessed firsthand the tremendous advances this agency, and our partners, have made to address the nation's environmental challenges and fulfill our mission. The proposed budget continues this progress by supporting EPA's highest priorities with federal funding for core work in air and water quality, contaminated land cleanups, ensuring the safety of chemicals in the marketplace, and compliance with the law," the remarks say.
But The New York Times obtained talking points for "hot topics," with responses for questions the EPA is expecting Pruitt to get on matters like the condo rental, raises and first-class travel. It's worth a read.
Why it matters: It may only be five minutes of questioning at a time for each lawmaker, but the Thursday hearings are likely to be among the toughest events of Pruitt's time so far at the EPA.
It could make or break Pruitt's future in Trump's Cabinet, particularly if he or others in the White House think Pruitt didn't handle it well.
Live blog: Your hosts will be live blogging both hearings, so tune in for highlights and major takeaways.
PARK POLICE OFFICERS WERE FORBIDDEN FROM WEARING CAMERAS: U.S. Park Police officers were forbidden from wearing body cameras while on the job, according to an internal memo obtained by The Hill through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
The March 2015 memo that U.S. Park Police Chief Robert MacLean wrote to the entire force expressly told officers not to use any audio or video recorders "while on duty."
He cited the lack of a department-wide policy for body cameras as the reason why officers could not record their time on the job.
"While we recognize the potentially positive benefits associated with body worn cameras, the Force does not currently have a program or policy in place. As such, and until such time that the force authorizes implementation, employees are not authorized to utilize such a device (whether Force or personally owned) to record video or audio while on duty," the memo read.
The only exception to the rule, MacLean wrote, would be if a division commander authorized the wearing of a recording device for a "special investigation."
The U.S. Park Police did not respond to a request for comment.
The Park Police has been under scrutiny since a November police chase on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Washington, D.C. The chase ended with officers firing nine shots into a Jeep Grand Cherokee, killing 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar. Family members say Ghaisar was unarmed.
Why it matters: Currently, the Interior Department, which oversees U.S. Park Police, still lacks an official policy on the use of body cameras by officers.
A February investigation by the Interior Department's Office of the Inspector General (IG) found that the department only has a draft policy on body camera usage, and at this point, it is voluntary.
MACRON EXPECTS U.S. TO RETURN TO PARIS AGREEMENT: French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday predicted that the United States will come back to the Paris climate change agreement.
Speaking to a joint session of Congress, Macron said climate change is a long-term problem that won't go away, and that gives him confidence the United States will either stay in the agreement or come back if it does leave.
"I'm sure, one day, the United States will come back and join the Paris agreement. And I'm sure we can work together to fulfill with you the ambitions of the global compact on the environment," Macron told the House and Senate, eliciting some cheers from within the House chamber.
President TrumpDonald TrumpSix big off-year elections you might be missing Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Banks for misgendering trans health official Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' MORE announced in June 2017 that he would pull the United States out of the pact, but it cannot take effect until 2020 at the earliest, and a future president could quickly rejoin.
Macron spoke extensively about climate change and the environment in his speech. But he did not seek to consternate Trump or the United States and instead chose to highlight the urgency of the issue.
FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:
-Policy makers should rethink traditional assumptions of how gas prices impact households, says Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
ON TAP THURSDAY:
Pruitt hearings: Pruitt will testify at two House hearings on the EPA's 2019 budget request: one in the Energy and Commerce Committee's environment subcommittee and one in the Appropriations Committee's Interior/EPA subcommittee.
Offshore revenue sharing: The House Natural Resources Committee's subcommittee on energy and mineral resources will hold a hearing on revenue sharing for offshore oil and natural gas drilling.
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
Wednesday marked four years since the event that started the Flint water crisis, and WJBK looks back on what's happened since.
A new study found that thousands of tropical islands could become uninhabitable in the coming decades due to climate change, The Washington Post reports.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D) is suing Duke Energy over its decision to charge ratepayers for the costs of cleaning up coal ash disposal facilities, the Associated Press reports.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out Wednesday's stories ...
-Park Police officers were forbidden from wearing body cameras: memo
-GOP lawmaker wants 'contrition' from Pruitt
-Pruitt talking points show he plans to shift blame at hearings: report
-White House: We expect Pruitt to provide answers on ethics controversies
-Macron: The US will come back to the Paris climate pact
-EPA security chief worked for tabloid owner linked to Trump: report