All ten Democrats on the Senate committee tasked with considering President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency boycotted the meeting to vote on Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
The Democratic protest delayed the vote, leaving the Environmental Protection Agency – an organization that has been a hotbed for controversy during the Trump transition - without a head.
“Not having a vote on this nominee today, not organizing this important committee, is a shame,” Republican Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the committee, said before adjourning the committee.
Democrats, outside the hearing chamber, complained about Pruitt not providing answers regarding his record as Oklahoma attorney general, while Republicans inside the chamber vented about the boycott.
“If Scott Pruitt is serious about serving as our next EPA Administrator, he should be more than willing to provide @EPWDems complete answers,” Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware tweeted shortly after the boycott was announced.
“We have a right and a responsibility to examine and critically evaluate these nominees’ background, to make sure that they will fulfill their oath and their responsibility,” Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, said at a news conference outside the hearing room. “This is about transparency in government. This is about dealing with the fact that you think the system is rigged.”
Republicans disagreed, arguing it was more about slowing Trump’s confirmation process.
“It is a disappointing turn of events,” said Republican Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, after announcing the boycott. “This will impact future EPA nominees. The precedent for this delay will likely have longtime impacts after this nominee has left office.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, said the Democratic protest was “a senatorial temper tantrum.”
“Tempter tantrums waste a lot of energy but they don’t accomplish anything,” Sullivan added.
Republicans also knocked Democrats for submitting 1,078 questions, a figure Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said was unreasonable.
But these 10 Democrats are not the first group to protest an EPA nominee. In fact, both Barrasso and Inhofe boycotted the hearing to vote on former President Barack Obama’s EPA pick, Gina McCarthy, in 2013.
Pruitt is a lightning rod pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The Oklahoma Republican has long viewed the EPA skeptically and has sued the agency repeatedly as the top cop in Oklahoma.
Pruitt broke with Donald Trump on climate change during his confirmation hearing, saying that he doesn’t believe climate change is a “hoax.”
But in testimony last month Pruitt didn’t indicate he would take swift action to address environmental issues that may contribute to climate change. Instead, the Oklahoma attorney general said there is still debate over how to respond.