Senate committee delays vote to confirm Scott Pruitt as EPA head amid Democratic boycott

Scott Pruitt
Joshua Roberts | Reuters

Facing a boycott by Senate Democrats, Republicans on the Environment and Public Works committee on Wednesday delayed a vote to confirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as President Donald Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Committee Chairman and Wyoming Republican John Barrasso vowed to move Pruitt's nomination forward "as expeditiously as possible."

"I believe no one is served, no environmental goal is achieved by the Democrats acting in this obstructionist way," he said in closing statements.

Democrats said they could not support the nomination of Pruitt, who has led efforts by Republican attorneys general to sue the EPA over President Barack Obama's climate change and environmental actions more than a dozen times.

Those efforts have been backed by the energy industry. In his confirmation hearing, Pruitt said he had taken the legal action on behalf of an industry that is critical to his state's economic vitality, not on the part of energy companies or their shareholders.

Democrats have also cited Pruitt's history of denying the effects of man made climate change.

Last week, ranking Democrat Tom Carper said Pruitt's answers during his confirmation hearing lacked substance, "blatantly contradicted his record, and provoked many serious concerns."

"Mr. Pruitt's responses were shockingly devoid of substance, did not rely on empirical evidence and did not reflect the thorough effort that a task so important to our democracy demands," he said.

Barrasso on Wednesday said Democrats had forfeit their right to complain about the Trump administration's policies by sabotaging the committee tasked with overseeing them.

He warned that the precedent the Democrats were setting in boycotting the vote would have consequences in the future.

"This amounts to nothing more than political theater at the expense of working on issues that we care about," he said.