Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, nominated to be the next administrator for the EPA, makes remarks during Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearings, on Capitol Hill, January 18 in Washington, D.C. Democrats boycotted a committee vote, but Republicans suspended committee rules in order to approve Pruitt. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Republicans in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday suspended committee rules in order to advance Scott Pruitt's nomination as head of the Environmental Protection Agency amid a Democrat boycott.
The committee's approval now pushes his nomination to the full Senate floor for a vote. Republicans unanimously approved Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt, President Donald Trump's EPA secretary nominee, with an 11-0 vote.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Senate Budget Committee also approved the nomination of Rep. Mick Mulvaney for director of the Office of Management and Budget along party lines, sending it to the full Senate for what is expected to be a close vote.
Democrats boycotted the scheduled vote on Pruitt for a second day, which led Republican committee members to suspend rules requiring at least one Democrat be present for the vote to occur.
"It's disappointing that they chose that course of action but we will not allow it to obstruct," Environmental Public Works Committee Chairman Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said prior to the vote. "Elections have consequences and the new president is entitled to put in place members to his agenda. Now it is time to set up a functioning government. That includes a functioning EPA."
Democrats on Wednesday said they boycotted the vote because Pruitt had not answered questions they submitted to the nominee in writing.
"The committee Democrats are deeply concerned about the lack of thoroughness of Mr. Pruitt's responses to our questions for the record," Delaware Sen. Thomas R. Carper, the committee's ranking Democrat, wrote in a letter to Barrasso. "We believe these inquiries, and our questions for the record, elicit information from the nominee that he possesses and that he should be able to provide to the committee ... Failure on his part to do so is not only an affront; it also denies Democratic committee members, and all members of the Senate, information necessary to judge his fitness to assume the important role of leading the EPA."
During his opening statement before the committee earlier this month, Pruitt said there is a link between human activity and climate change, adding that: "I do not believe climate change is a hoax."
"Science tells us that the climate is changing and that human activity in some manner impacts that change," Pruitt said. "The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue and well it should be."
Mulvaney's nomination will go to the full U.S. Senate for a vote, but his approval by both committees was strictly along party lines and one prominent senator, Sen. John McCain, has been vocal about his doubts about Mulvaney's fitness to run the Office of Management and Budget.
In addition to concerns about unpaid employment taxes for a babysitter, Democrats on the committees suggested Mulvaney had radical budget ideas and questioned whether someone who was once willing to shut down the government should be responsible for the budget.
Mulvaney's previous efforts to roll back entitlements was referenced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who said Mulvaney's "ideology is in direct contrast to what President Trump ran on. President Trump told working people and seniors he would not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Yet you have a nominee who prides himself, who is a deficit hawk, who has said over and over again that he will do exactly the opposite of what President Trump campaigned on."
McCain voted to send Mulvaney's nomination to the Senate for a vote, but said he "continues to have concerns with his nomination."
"I do believe the full Senate should have the opportunity to consider Congressman Mulvaney's nomination," McCain said during Mulvaney's hearing. "Given Congressman Muvalney's record on defense spending, including his vote to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan, I continue to have concerns about his nomination to be OMB director. However, I will continue to weigh all the facts as the Senate considers Congressman Mulvaney's nomination."