Senate Approves Scott Pruitt to Head the Environmental Protection Agency

By Yessenia Funes Feb 17, 2017

Update, February 17, 1:54 p.m. ET:

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Senate approved Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA today (February 17) via a 52-46 vote. Two Democrats—Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota—supported him. One Republican—Susan Collins of Maine—voted against him.


The nominee to lead the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is up for his final confirmation hearing before the full Senate today (February 17). The vote is expected at 1 p.m. ET. However, that will not happen if Senate democrats are successful in their current action to push for a delay—and tactic which began yesterday afternoon.

Senate democrats have been holding the floor since 3:30 p.m. ET yesterday, citing concerns about Pruitt’s climate denial, his record of litigation against the environmental agency, ties he has to the fossil fuel industry and the implications of each on the environment and public health—particularly among communities of color, the young, the elderly and, more broadly, the disenfranchised.

Democrats hope to have the vote pushed until next week so that Senate members can review emails between Pruitt and mining and drilling companies like Koch Industries. Oklahoma County District Court Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons ruled yesterday that Pruitt must hand over more than 2,500 emails to the Center for Media and Democracy in a lawsuit, Center for Media and Democracy v. Scott Pruitt, the group launched against him on February 7. The center had been requesting these documents since 2015 with the attorney general failing to provide them, resulting in a violation of the state’s Open Records Act. Many senators have expressed concern over these emails during yesterday prolonged confirmation hearing.

This is not the first time Senate Democrats have taken a stand against the nominee, including a boycott earlier this month for Pruitt’s committee hearings. In that instance, the remaining Republicans on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works ultimately maneuvered around their absence through a rare suspension of rules.

EPA employees, including scientists, lawyers and policy experts, have also been calling their senators to ask them to vote against Pruitt, The New York Times reports. They’ve also resorted to social media to post messages urging others to make calls.

“It is rare,” said James Thurber, the director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, to the Times. “I can’t think of any other time when people in the bureaucracy have done this.”

Still, the nominee’s confirmation is expected to pass as two Democrat senators, Heidi Keitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, have said they’ll vote for Pruitt.

This tension and debate comes at a time when environmentalists are worried for the agency overll. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) introduced legislation on February 3 to abolish the EPA by the end of 2018. In addition, two unnamed sources told Reuters, in a story published yesterday, that President Donald Trump is “preparing a handful of executive orders to reshape the agency, to be signed once a new administrator is confirmed.” They did not disclose any details on what the orders would include.

Watch the Senate hearing from the beginning yesterday or live here on C-Span.