Holding the Senate floor for a talk-a-thon that will last into Friday afternoon, Democrats are demanding that the chamber delay its planned vote on Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head the EPA, saying lawmakers can afford to wait a few days and learn more about his ties to the oil and gas industry.
Mr. Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, was ordered by an Oklahoma judge late Thursday to turn over nearly 3,000 emails related to his communications with the oil and gas sector. The nominee has until Tuesday to turn over those documents, which Democrats argue will show that Mr. Pruitt is in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry and is unfit to lead the EPA.
“Be careful about the vote you cast at 1 o’clock today because by 1 o’clock on Tuesday or Wednesday in the following week you may regret that vote,” he said. “The Republican senators and Mitch McConnell said we don’t want to read [the emails]. We don’t care what’s in them. … Scott Pruitt can wait 10 days and we can wait for the truth, can’t we?”
Democrats held the Senate floor all night Thursday and into the morning Friday to protest that decision, though their efforts likely will fail.
“It would be wholly irresponsible to vote on this nominee this week knowing that we don’t have the full picture,” Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat and his party’s ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Thursday night. “If we are going to do the job that the American people sent us here to do, we must carefully review this new information in order to better evaluate just what kind of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt would be.”
In raising concerns about what could be in the emails, Democrats point to a 2011 letter sent by Mr. Pruitt to the EPA, raising questions about the agency’s conclusions regarding harmful emissions from natural gas wells. The majority of the language in the letter was lifted directly from documents written by Devon Energy, an Oklahoma oil and gas company.
During testimony before a Senate panel last month, Mr. Pruitt didn’t deny using the company’s language, but said it was his job as Oklahoma attorney general to advocate on behalf of his state’s interests, including the interests of major industries in the state like the oil and gas sector.
Democrats have blasted Mr. Pruitt’s logic in that particular situation and believe the looming email trove will show other examples of collusion between the two sides.
Despite the uproar, Mr. Pruitt almost surely will be approved in Friday’s vote. While one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, has said she’ll vote against him, two Democrats will back Mr. Pruitt.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota have said they’ll vote in favor of the nomination, likely ensuring Mr. Pruitt’s approval, unless Republican leaders change course and delay the vote.
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