Senate Democrats are planning to once again stage a series of overnight speeches on the Senate floor, this time in opposition to Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head the EPA.
“We intend to stand our ground,” said Delaware Sen. Thomas R. Carper, the ranking Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee. While Pruitt appears poised for confirmation, Carper said Democrats were not going quietly into the night.
“[If] we go home, we go to bed, say, ‘That’s it, we fought the good fight, it’s 10 o’clock, we’re going to call it a day,’ there’s zero chance we prevail,” Carper said.
Carper was joined by fellow Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois at a Thursday press conference to criticize Republican leadership for not delaying Pruitt’s confirmation.
To justify the delay, the Democrats cited ongoing litigation over emails between Pruitt’s office and fossil fuel industries. An emergency hearing in Oklahoma is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, when a judge will rule whether the Center for Media and Democracy can obtain access to those emails.
The lawmakers acknowledged that if the judge ruled in the group’s favor, senators would not have time to review the exchanges before a final confirmation vote Friday afternoon.
“That’s the point,” Whitehouse said. He accused GOP leaders of an “epic ram job” in pushing forward with Pruitt’s confirmation before senators had time to review those emails.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected the Democrats’ request to postpone votes on Pruitt’s nomination. On Thursday, the Kentucky Republican called on his fellow senators to confirm Pruitt.
“He’s exceptionally qualified. He’s dedicated to environmental protection,” McConnell said. “And, as someone with state government experience, he understands the real-world consequences of EPA actions and knows that balance is the key to making policies that are sustainable over the long term.”
Democrats contend that Pruitt’s lawsuits brought against the EPA, and political donations he’s received from the fossil fuel industry, show that his goals are contrary to the agency and his tenure would be mired with conflicts of interest.
“This is the wolf into the lamb fold. This is wrong. This is an appalling conflict of interest,” Whitehouse said. “And conflicts of interest, in my experience as a prosecutor, don’t end well.”