Esther Addy / Flickr Lawmakers Grill EPA Chief Scott Pruitt...
Esther Addy / Flickr

Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator, went before the Senate Budget Committee yesterday to chat and answer some compelling questions.

Before we get to the specifics, it is worth noting that in any other administration, Pruitt would not have lasted one third of the amount of time he has in this administration. He still has his job with Trump for three reasons. In no particular order: Despite his breathtaking conflict of interests, acceptance of “goods and services” from lobbyists and need for luxury travel lest he hear criticism, he can point all the way to the top of the chain and in one sentence name worse abuses. Second, he is a Republican doing exactly what Republicans expect from an EPA administrator, he is ripping up every regulation he can get his hands on, even a ban on a chemical in paint known to kill people if mishandled, and doing so with dispatch. Last, Trump can’t fire absolutely everyone in his cabinet, or someone might notice and point out that something unusual is going on, right?

To the hearing we go, though this did occur yesterday, when none of us could catch our breath given everything else that erupted: Sen. Leahy led off the Democratic inquiry by hitting most of the highlights, the luxury travel for “security reasons” because one time he heard a complaint from a citizen (is there a rule in first class that a politician cannot be criticized, or do they just assume everyone in first class is Republican?), regardless, Leahy assured Pruitt that basically no one knows who he even is. Leahy transitioned to  the indefensible $43,000.00 “cone of silence” installed so that Pruitt may speak on the phone without worry that anyone will hear him. Now, on this I can sympathize because I have had to make and receive phone calls that I needed to take in private. My answer has always worked and cost nothing, it involves simply holding the phone off to the side and saying to the person that walked in: “I need to have some privacy on this matter,” and have not once had a problem. I tried to recall a time it cost me a dollar and came up with nothing. When you instruct the government to pay $43,000 to ensure you’re the one cabinet member with his own confessional, the presumption as to “why” is not healthy. Leahy finished by informing Administrator Pruitt that he was the laughing stock of Washington D.C.

Senator Udall brought a sleeve of “Xtra-Distance” balls when he tee’d up. Udall asked about some particularly impolite letters sent to Democrats emanating from Pruitt’s office, while also examining how the unauthorized $43,000 “cone of silence” could possibly have been installed legally. He told Pruitt under no uncertain terms that if Pruitt had any integrity he should resign, immediately.

But, Udall left the most meaningful and devastating topic for the end, the truly indefensible and not the least bit funny. Udall saved his real fury to unleash questions as to how and why Pruitt has stalled on the proposed ban on methylene chloride, an ingredient in most common painting supplies that has killed a number of people. The EPA under President Obama had proposed the ban and Pruitt simply has refused to implement it. Udall’s own words deserve to be quoted.

“The science was at the point for a complete, outright ban,

“He takes office and, in the first hearing we had, he told us that we were just going to put that aside until 2022, so after the next presidential election. I said to him, is that your intention? He said, no, we just have it under review. Then we showed him that it was on his website and he said, well, I’m not sure that’s correct. There’s a complete evasion of the issues. We think he’s going to label, rather than ban, a substance that is terribly dangerous. There are families who were up here who have lost family members who were just doing ordinary household chores.”

And this, of course, is where the concern about practically free housing, the cone of silence, and a PAC set up for his legal defense  (why does he need that? Government lawyers cannot do it?), really cause devastation. Such odd behavior forces one to almost presume that Pruitt “got something” out of the deal. Why else does someone deep-six a ban on a chemical currently killing people?

But, have no doubt, Pruitt continues to do exactly as Republicans expect, and that bus him a whole bunch of “forgiveness” on the other issues.





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