Thomas R Carper

GAO: Pruitt’s Pricey Privacy Booth Violated Federal Law
Monday report states funds were not legally available

A staffer exits the Senate subway on April 11 with a poster detailing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s ethics issues. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The EPA violated federal law when it paid more than $43,000 to install a soundproof privacy booth for Administrator Scott Pruitt without first notifying congressional appropriators, the Government Accountability Office said.

The agency violated the law by using more than $5,000 of fiscal 2017 appropriated funds for an unintended purpose without giving lawmakers advance notice, GAO investigators wrote in a report released Monday.

Former Coal Lobbyist Confirmed as Pruitt’s Deputy at EPA
Heitkamp and Manchin join Republicans on vote

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt now has a deputy — a former fossil fuel lobbyist — after a Senate confirmation vote Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate has confirmed former fossil fuel lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as deputy EPA administrator, providing a second-in-command for Administrator Scott Pruitt as he struggles amid alleged ethical failings.

Wheeler was confirmed Thursday with a 53-45 vote. Some Democrats hoped Pruitt’s difficulties would give them the votes to block the confirmation, but their efforts were not enough. Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia joined Republicans in voting for Wheeler. Both are running for re-election this year in states won by President Donald Trump.

Dems Question Scott Pruitt Death Threats; Barrasso Rejects Hearing
EPA chief's security concerns questioned

Senate Democrats question whether EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is embellishing death threats to justify heightened security details and want to question him in a hearing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming said he will not hold oversight hearings to examine alleged ethical lapses by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, including on exorbitant spending on security.

Two top Democrats on the committee, ranking member Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, on Tuesday demanded such hearings, saying they have confidential documents that contradict public statements made by Pruitt, EPA spokespersons and President Donald Trump regarding the administrator’s security spending.

Senate Passes Bank Deregulation Bill, House May Seek Additions
More than a dozen Democratic senators joined all Republicans

Senate Banking Chairman Michael D. Crapo sponsored the measure that would ease regulations on all but the biggest banks. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate voted Wednesday to pass a bill that would be the biggest bank deregulation since 1999 and would roll back parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul.

More than a dozen Democrats joined the Republicans to pass the bill, sending it to the House, where conservative Republicans may seek to attach further provisions to roll back the 2010 law. Republicans will be trying to straddle the line between the extensive reversal of bank regulation that they seek and keeping on board the Senate Democrats who will be needed to clear the measure.

Chao, Senate Democrats Spar on Infrastructure Proposal
Transportation secretary says ask the White House about gas tax increase

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao pushed back on Democrats' criticism about the administration's infrastructure plan, such as it is. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee sparred Thursday over environmental requirements and funding in the president’s infrastructure proposal, jousting over the contents of a plan that top Senate Republicans indicated this week isn’t likely to pass this year.

Chao repeatedly defended the plan from charges by committee Democrats that it would strip environmental protections, saying the administration only wanted to improve the process without sacrificing environmental quality. The administration wants to eliminate duplication and allow relevant agencies to conduct environmental reviews simultaneously rather than sequentially, she said.

Senators Rebuke GSA, FBI Over Handling of FBI Headquarters
Abrupt abandonment of years-long process to relocate miffs lawmakers

The front of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican and Democratic senators on Wednesday blasted the General Services Administration and the FBI over costs, press leaks and changes in security requirements in its redrawn plan for a new FBI headquarters.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso complained at a hearing that senators learned of the GSA’s abrupt cancellation of a previous FBI plan last year through press reports rather than from the agencies. He also cited the missed deadlines on that plan, which had been more than a decade in the making.

White House to Pull Nominee to Head Environment Council
Kathleen Hartnett White has history of rejecting climate change science

The White House is withdrawing the nomination of Texas climate change science skeptic Kathleen Hartnett White. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The White House will withdraw the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White, the former Texas environmental official tapped to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, a White House official said Sunday.

The Washington Post first reported the planned withdrawal on Saturday.

Doug Jones Took Office Leading Senate Democrats in Diversity
Jones chief of staff and transition adviser are African-Americans

Then-Democratic candidate for Senate Doug Jones speaks, flanked from left by Selma Mayor Darrio Melton, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., and former Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., outside of the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Ala., on Dec. 9. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones took office on Wednesday as the only Democrat in the Senate with an African-American chief of staff.

Dana Gresham, Jones’ new chief, was previously assistant secretary for governmental affairs at the Department of Transportation. He was nominated by former President Barack Obama and held the position for all eight years of the administration. He most recently was a consultant in D.C.

Tax Bill Eyes End to Project Finance, Stadium Bonds Deductions
Republicans say purpose is to eliminate tax breaks for private entities

Democratic and Republican lawmakers participate in the 2012 Congressional Baseball Game in Nationals Park. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Republican tax bill unveiled Thursday would eliminate a tax break for a major financing tool for public-private partnerships, one of several bond provisions that would affect projects including professional sports stadiums.

Under the bill, income from private activity bonds, a tool that state and local governments offer to help private entities raise money for projects that are deemed to have public benefit, would no longer be tax exempt. The provision would increase revenue by $38.9 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

EPA Moves to Repeal Climate Rule; Lawsuits to Follow
With Clean Power Plan on the chopping block, environmental groups gear up to sue

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, left, said this week that unraveling the Clean Power Plan would right “the wrongs of the Obama administration.” (Tom Williams/Roll Call File Photo)

The EPA’s move on Tuesday to undo the Obama administration’s signature climate change rule will almost certainly trigger an onslaught of lawsuits from environmental groups and many blue states that have been bracing for that action since President Donald Trump took office.

The agency said it had filed a notice with the Federal Register proposing to unravel the 2015 Clean Power Plan and will seek public input into that proposal over a 60-day period. But the EPA did not commit to promulgating a replacement policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which environmentalists have said would lead them to sue to stop the repeal or force the agency to write a new policy.