Facing Democratic boycott, Republicans change rules to advance EPA pick

Facing Democratic boycott, Republicans change rules to advance EPA pick 

Posted: 11:07 am Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

By Jamie Dupree

Pressing ahead with work on President Trump’s Cabinet in the U.S. Senate, Republicans brushed aside a committee boycott by Democrats, temporarily changing rules on a key Senate panel in order to approve the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, picked to lead the Environmental Protection Agency in a Trump Administration.

The vote was 11-0 in favor of Pruitt, who has drawn strong opposition from Democrats.

“We took this extraordinary step because the minority members of the committee took the extraordinary step of boycotting the business meeting,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“As we pointed out yesterday, elections have consequences,” Barrasso added, as the Democratic side of the committee dais remained empty for a second straight day.

As with a temporary rules change made by the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday to speed approval of President Trump’s pick for Treasury and health secretaries, today’s move was again done with the seal of approval of the Senate Parliamentarian.

“We had an election last November,” Barrasso told his committee. “And now it is time to set up a functioning government.”

Democrats said they wanted more answers out of Pruitt on a variety of questions.

“We made our requests to Scott Pruitt perfectly clear and they are entirely reasonable,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE).

A spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said Republicans had wrongly used the rules.

“Senator Barasso broke what he once called “clear committee precedent” to ram Pruitt nomination through,” said Schumer spokesman Matt House.

But Republicans countered that Pruitt had answered hundreds of extra queries, as they accused Democrats of political grandstanding.

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