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Can Trump EPA Administrator Pruitt Survive?

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by Patrick J. Paul

With midterm elections looming, the prospects of a blue wave strengthening, and a consistent shuffling of the Trump cabinet, former Oklahoma Attorney General and current EPA administrator Scott Pruitt now finds himself in the hot seat. Fresh off a glowing self-evaluation in the form of EPA’s own 2017-18 Year in Review, which can be found here, Administrator Pruitt faces difficult questioning by Congress as he addresses two separate House panels (Energy and Commerce and Appropriations) to discuss the EPA budget with a bevy of non-budget questions also being hurled.

Notwithstanding some success in seeking to roll back regulations including an attempt to repeal the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule while reducing staffing, Pruitt’s support among the Republican base is itself diminishing. Among other things, Pruitt faces questioning regarding his infamous $43,000 soundproof booth installed in his EPA office which the Government Accountability Office determined broke the law. Additionally, Pruitt’s travel practices which often involved him flying in first class at taxpayer expense but coach on his own expense has been scrutinized. Similarly, bargain-basement Washington DC housing accommodation courtesy of the family of a lobbyist for an Oklahoma Energy company and family travel to the Rose Bowl (Boomer Sooner?) and Disneyland with EPA security detail in tow, not to mention atypical pay raises to former Oklahoma staffers now EPA appointees and more have thrust Pruitt under the spotlight and weakened support even among those who otherwise support his regulatory agenda.

In testimony before Congress, Pruitt defended in part his heavy reliance on EPA security on the fact that he has received credible death threats since taking the agency helm.

Earlier this week, EPA proposed a rule designed to prohibit EPA from rulemaking in the absence of publicly available scientific research, similar to pending Republican sponsored legislation. This too raised the eyebrows of some in Congress and had Pruitt defending the proposal.

Even the White House appears exasperated at the moment and support for Pruitt from the Oval Office may be waning.  Nevertheless, the Congressional partisan divide showed as Republicans were noticeably “kinder and gentler” as they questioned some actions but did not call for his resignation.

Stay tuned, however, as it’s possible another Cabinet post could soon be opening.