The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is set to vote on Scott Pruitt’s nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, despite complaints from Democrats that he didn’t thoroughly answer all their questions.
Democrats on the committee, led by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), criticized Pruitt for offering evasive answers to more than 1,078 questions for the record after his hearing earlier this month, and have called on Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wy.) to push back the date of the vote. However, they have not gone so far as to threaten to block the vote from happening, as occurred on Tuesday with the confirmation votes for the heads of the Department of Health of Human Services and the Department of Treasury.
Democrats asked Pruitt to share all communications he had with outside groups while serving as attorney general of Oklahoma, and Pruitt only responded that they should request the documents from his office. They also complained in a letter to Barrasso that many of Pruitt’s answers on policies did not entirely address the question. And they criticized the nominee for not promising to indefinitely recuse himself from issues relating to lawsuits he was involved in as attorney general.
The debate over Pruitt’s nomination has played out along partisan lines, and no Republicans have indicated they would oppose him. Barrasso praised Pruitt for his answers, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Pruitt is a good friend, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) plans to support Pruitt, and a spokesman for Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) told Morning Consult he will also vote in favor.
While no Democrats on the committee have indicated support for Pruitt, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reportedly praised him, saying Pruitt “has the right experience for the position.”
Such a polarized committee vote is nothing new for the position of EPA administrator. In 2013, all eight Republicans on the committee refused to attend the committee vote on Gina McCarthy’s confirmation. In that case, Republicans complained that McCarthy had “stonewalled” them on questions about the EPA’s history on Freedom of Information Act requests, email policies, data access, economic analyses, and other issues.
McCarthy was ultimately confirmed by the full Senate in a 59-40 vote, garnering support from six Republicans and losing one Democrat. Another senator did not vote.
Democrats have pointed to other examples in which Republican senators have pushed back Cabinet votes to take more time to ask questions. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) noted in a statement that in 2013, Republican senators delayed a vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee and a full Senate vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be secretary of Defense.