Trump's EPA nominee Pruitt cleared by committee while Democrats boycott again

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meets with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 4, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Republicans on a Senate committee on Thursday cleared Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, amid the second straight day of a Democratic boycott.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11-0 to send the Oklahoma attorney general to a full Senate vote. It temporarily suspended its rules to allow the vote to proceed without any Democrats present.

Democrats protested Pruitt's nomination due to his doubts about humans' effect on climate change and his potential conflicts of interest with the energy companies he would regulate. He also had a major role in suing the Obama administration over its climate and environmental rules.

It marked the second straight day that Senate Republicans made the unusual move to bypass a Democratic boycott of Trump's nominees. The Finance Committee also advanced Trump's nominees to lead the Treasury and Health and Human Services departments Wednesday without any Democrats present.

"I believe no one is served, no environmental goal is achieved, by acting in this obstructionist way," the committee's chairman, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said in a statement Wednesday.

Democrats contended the step was necessary due to what they called Pruitt's efforts to misrepresent his record.

"The EPA performs a critical duty that protects Americans and saves lives. If Mr. Pruitt is serious about leading this important agency, he should be more than willing to provide straightforward answers to our fundamental questions," the committee's ranking member, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said in a statement.

During his confirmation hearing last month, Pruitt said the effect of humans on climate change is "subject to more debate." Pressed on why he thinks the climate is changing, he argued that his personal opinion is "immaterial."

Unless several Republicans break party ranks to vote against Pruitt, he will likely get confirmed by the full Senate.

Environmental groups have contended that Pruitt would gut the EPA's ability to hold the energy industry accountable and prevent climate change.