U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt faced some difficult questions from lawmakers in a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing on the EPA budget yesterday.  At issue are  a list of alleged ethical missteps, including heavy spending on first-class air travel and security and his rental of a room in a Washington townhouse linked to an energy industry lobbyist.

Although President Trump has expressed support for Pruitt for his work scaling back environmental regulations seen as overly burdensome to industry, White house sources told Reuters that officials are becoming worried about the flow of charges against him.  It has been reported that there are a dozen pending investigations into Pruitt with the EPA inspector general, the Government Accountability Office and the White House Office of Management and Budget, as well as the U.S. House of Representatives oversight committee.

The EPA has defended Pruitt’s spending on travel and security, saying it has been crucial to protecting him from public threats and ensuring he can conduct confidential work and have also pointed out that Pruitt’s lease for the room in Washington was similar to market rate.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said that Pruitt intends to use the hearings as an “opportunity to reiterate the accomplishements of President Trump’s EPA, which includes working to repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States, providing regulatory certainty, and declaring a war on lead, all the while returning to Reagan-era staffing.

Democratic lawmakers that oppose Pruitt’s regulatory rollbacks have seized on his missteps with 170 of them calling for his resignation.  Recently, five Republican Congress members have joined their ranks in calling for his ouster.

Some Republican lawmakers have said they would support oversight hearings for Pruitt, including the Senate environment committee chair John Barrasso (R-WY) and third-ranking Republican Senator John Thune (R-SD).  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said at a news conference this week that he is still a Pruitt supporter but signaled that the EPA head’s Hill performance could determine if that support continued.  “We’ll just see,” McConnell said.

 

 

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