The Senate voted last week 52-46 to confirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. The vote was largely on party lines with Republican Susan Collins of Maine voting “no” and two Democrats from coal producing states Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota voting “yes.”
Pruitt has been controversial in that as Oklahoma Attorney General he sued the EPA fourteen times. He has also frequently challenged the existence of climate change.
Since his nomination was announced, Democrats were very vocal about their opposition. “Attorney General Pruitt made his name opposing EPA rules that protect human health and the environment, fighting against clean air and clean water, disregarding the science behind the EPA’s protections for human health and the environment, on behalf of for-profit special interests, not the public interest,” Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) remarked.
On other hand, Republicans think that Pruitt is the ideal candidate to revamp the EPA, which was originally established in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, a Republican. “He has consistently fought against federal intrusion,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said of Pruitt. “The EPA must accept the limits of federal power.”
Pruitt’s confirmation was further complicated by a request by an Oklahoma judge for Pruitt’s Attorney General’s Office to turn over to The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) 3,000 emails which included exchanges between his office and the coal industry. The judge order was to enforce an open records request which dates back to 2014. The CMD has alleged that the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office has ignored multiple open records requests. As of Thursday night, Pruitt’s office had only turned over 411 of the emails.
Democrats endeavored to use the records request as a way to delay the confirmation vote keeping the Senate in another all night session. Ultimately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put an end to the delay tactics calling these actions “unprecedented, harmful and pointless.”
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