Pruitt on the Hill

Notes by Miranda Green  |  The Hill

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt is returning to Capitol Hill Wednesday morning for a hearing.

The event at the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subpanel with authority over the EPA is ostensibly for Pruitt to answer questions about his requested budget for fiscal 2019.

But it is also the first time senators will get to question Pruitt at a hearing since the deluge of spending and ethics controversies involving him started in March. It’s Pruitt’s first appropriations hearing since June 2017, and his first Senate appearance since January.

While Democrats say they’re eager to grill Pruitt, the anticipation and drama leading up to the hearing pales in comparison to April 26, when he faced two subcommittee hearings in the same day in the House.

“I’ve got a lot of questions. The question is, how do you cram them all in within five or 10 minutes,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Senate panel, said Tuesday with a grin.

“I’m going to be asking him both about environmental policies he’s pushing and issues regarding betrayal of the public trust,” Van Hollen continued.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a strong supporter of Pruitt’s agenda, said other lawmakers are likely to ask questions about his controversies, so she won’t use her time for that.

“At this point, I think those questions are probably going to be raised,” she said. “I’m just going to concentrate on policy.”

Grassley threatens to ask Pruitt to leave: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) threatened Tuesday to become the first GOP senator to call on Pruitt to resign.

The threat was over “hardship” waivers that the EPA has been giving to fuel refineries to allow them to avoid complying with the federal ethanol mandate. He warned in a call with reporters that Pruitt had better stop giving them to refineries owned by big companies.

“Well, they better, or I’m going to be calling for Pruitt to resign, because I’m done playing around with this” he said.

Grassley argued that waivers violate promises by Pruitt and President Trump to keep the annual federal ethanol mandate at the level Congress called for in 2007, which is currently 15 billion gallons.

His state is dominant nationally in corn production, and the ethanol mandate has significantly ramped up demand for corn to create the biofuel. He fears the waivers will chip away at the mandate and hurt Iowa.

“Trump was elected with an agenda, Pruitt was not elected, and it’s Pruitt’s job to carry out the Trump agenda,” he said in a call.

Grassley reiterated the threat later Tuesday in a tweet.

“I’ve supported Pruitt but if he pushes changes to RFS that permanently cut ethanol by billions of gallons he will have broken Trump promise & he should step down & let someone else do the job of implementing Trump agenda if he refuses,” Grassley wrote.

 

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