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Climate-Change Skeptic Scott Pruitt Confirmed to Lead the EPA

18 February 2017

The Democratic members of the Senate began Friday the way they ended Thursday, talking on the chamber floor and shouting into the wind about the fundamental absurdity of the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a fundamental absurdity that does not end with the fact that Pruitt is now suing the agency he has been nominated to lead.

President Donald Trump's pick for EPA administrator was among the most contentious of his cabinet nominees, and Democrats held an all-night session on the Senate floor in a failed bid to block his confirmation. Two Democratic senators, North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia's Joe Manchin, announced earlier they would vote in favor of his confirmation.

A 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times exposé revealed that then Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt copied and pasted letters and documents written by lobbyists of oil and gas companies who were big campaign contributors of his onto the official letterhead of his office - often to berate the EPA.

"Pruitt's record and public statements strongly suggest that he does not share the vision or agree with the underlying principles of our environmental laws", the former employees said in their letter.

Republicans on the other hand argued that Pruitt would return the EPA to its true mission of protecting the environment, and cease issuing what they characterized as harmful regulations.

On Thursday an Oklahoma judge ordered that Pruitt's office provide a liberal watchdog group about 3,000 emails said to contain conversations between the attorney general's office and representatives of oil, gas, and coal companies.

Scott Pruitt was approved Friday by a vote of 52-46. One Republican, Senator Susan Collins of ME, voted against the nomination.

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Ahead of the Senate's vote, the Massachusetts Democrat led a group of senators in calling on Pruitt to recuse himself from various cases he brought against the EPA as Oklahoma's attorney general. Politico reported that eleven other senators are also attending the conference, but their Friday flight was delayed to ensure that they could cast their vote on Pruitt before leaving.

Senate Democrats tried to delay the vote until February 27 - hoping to put it off until Pruitt releases emails of his conversations with fossil fuel interests.

If Scott Pruitt is hiding something-and it sure looks like he is-Senate Republicans refused to wait around to find out what it is.

There is still virtually no way that Pruitt is not confirmed by the Senate on Friday night.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., pushed back on the accusations from Republicans that Democrats are purposely trying to stall the vote to get back at Trump. Staff at the agency have reportedly been told to prepare for a slate of executive orders that Trump is planning to sign shortly after Pruitt is sworn in.

However, Jeffrey Holmstead, a potential candidate for Pruitt's deputy, said concerns are overblown and the "organized effort to demonize Pruitt" is both "unfair and unfortunate". This is especially true because Republican John McCain was not present to vote - and would have voted for Pruitt.