House Republicans on Scott Pruitt: We’re With Him

“I have, high, high, high confidence in his personal integrity.”

Ron Sachs/CNP/ZUMA

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One of the reasons Scott Pruitt has probably survived this long at the Environmental Protection Agency is that he still has key Republican support in Congress. It was clear Thursday that House Republicans were still willing to defend him, when Pruitt appeared before the House Energy and Commerce and the House Appropriations subcommittees.

The hearings followed a pattern. Democrats grilled Pruitt on the ethical problems surrounding his administration—or spent their remaining time with monologues about his actions. Republicans were less interested in getting answers from Pruitt on what subcommittee chair Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) called his “stewardship” of the agency, and spent more time focusing on the “policy” they agreed with. Despite Pruitt’s innumerable and well-documented ethical violations and questionable spending patterns, many Republicans in the hearing used their time to offer support for the embattled EPA head. 

“It’s shameful today that this hearing has turned into a personal attack hearing and a shameful attempt to denigrate the work that’s being done at the EPA,” Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) said. 

Rep. Gregg Harper, (R-Miss.) complained of the “political bloodsport to destroy anyone who is affiliated with this administration.”

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) called Pruitt a “victim” of Washington politics. “If you can’t debate the policies in Washington, you attack the personality. And that’s what’s happening to you.”

“I apologize for the abrasiveness of some of my colleagues who would rather tarnish your reputation than address the problems facing the nation,” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) said after a heated line of questioning from the other side of the aisle. 

And as the Huffington Post pointed out, Rep. David McKinley called the criticism a “classic display of innuendo and McCarthyism.”

“I have, high, high, high confidence in his personal integrity,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Ok), who comes from Pruitt’s home state, added in the second hearing of the day. 

In between the hearings, Shimkus told reporters Pruitt’s answers were “a little vague” but maintained that only the White House had the power to decide the EPA administrator’s fate. 

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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