Barrasso Ignores Calls For A Hearing On EPA Administrator Pruitt

May 4, 2018

Credit Environmental Protection Agency

Despite the concern of others, Wyoming’s congressional delegation says EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been great for the state’s industries and they don’t seem too worried about all the scandals hanging over him. 

Wyoming’s junior Senator John Barrasso chairs the environment committee which has oversight over the Environmental Protection Agency but he has yet to schedule a hearing with its embattled administrator Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt was dragged before two House committees last week and raked over the coals by most every Democrat and many Republicans over reports that he ordered a more than $40,000 secure phone booth to be erected in his office, lived at a lobbyists house for a sweetheart rate and allowed his top advisors to get huge bonuses. Still, Barrasso’s committee has yet to schedule him for a hearing even though energy reporters have pressed him for weeks whether he has plans to bring Pruitt in. Barrasso has given some lip service to the issue.

"There are absolute legitimate questions that need to be answered. We're continuing to ask those questions, getting some response. We have more questions to ask."

Barrasso denies critics claims that he’s giving Pruitt a pass by not scheduling a hearing.

"We've got to make sure that the public purse is protected and we want to make sure that people are getting the accountability and the transparency that we want. The specifics of this spending that's been done and we've seen that and then the thing about the emails."

Democrats say Barrasso and others in the GOP are hypocrites for allowing conservatives like Pruitt to go unchecked. Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia serves on the Oversight Committee and said all he hears from the GOP are crickets. 

"Unfortunately, this Congress is devolved into partisan non-oversight and that's another reason why the midterm elections are going to be so important. Will we restore the constitutional obligation of the legislative branch as a separate, but coequal branch, to hold the executive branch accountable irrespective of which party controls the White House."

It’s not just Democrats. Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy says the accusations against Pruitt are disturbing. 

"Ethics matter, impropriety matters, the appearance of impropriety matters. These dollars that we all spend are precious and they didn't just all fall from heaven. We thank heaven for them, but they come out of people's pockets and you've got to respect taxpayer money. You can’t just go around spending it like it was ditch water."

Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Charlie Dent is retiring and added that the lack of oversight on Pruitt is a part of a larger trend in Washington for both parties to be hyper-partisan in recent years. 

"Clearly…had the shoe been on the other foot we'd be waving a bloody shirt and there'd be hearings. Unfortunately, what I've noticed with both parties over the years is that both side kinda abides by this notion of separation of parties and a lot less separation of powers."

When asked about the allegations against Pruitt, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney defended his record.

"Look, I think people in Wyoming are really thrilled with the policy changes we've seen, really, very supportive of the policy and the substantive direction the EPA's going in."

But when pressed on the accusations that Pruitt is squandering taxpayer dollars on things like first class flights and an expensive security detail, Cheney admitted things could be handled better.

"And as to the other stuff, I think I would simply want to make sure that, you know, no matter who the public servant is, they're abiding by the most rigorous standards and levels in terms of ethics and responsible behaviors."

Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins opposed Pruitt and recently added that the dark cloud that now follows him wherever he goes actually undercuts his other efforts at the agency. 

"The ethical allegations against him make him very difficult for the department to focus on its mission and are a distraction. They add to my concerns about his policy decisions." 

Still, Senator Barrasso said he’s in no rush to drag Pruitt before his committee. 

"The White House is in the process of doing a formal review. The President will make an ultimate decision, but we're going to keep asking questions."

Barrasso’s Democratic colleagues are wondering when they’ll be allowed to ask their own questions of administrator Pruitt.