Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray today signed onto a resolution calling for the resignation of EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt. With Cantwell and Murray on board, now all of Washington State's Democratic representatives in Congress—which includes Reps Pramila Jayapal, Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer, Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, and Suzan DelBene—are demanding for him to leave. Thirty-nine Senators have signed on to the Senate resolution, and 131 Reps are sponsoring the House's version.
(It's about time. Two weeks ago, two GOP Representatives from Florida and one from New York demanded Pruitt's resignation.)
If you haven't been following along, Pruitt's a giddy, wasteful goon who's been spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a comically large security detail, private planes, a soundproof booth, furniture, and a D.C. condo he refuses to keep clean. Despite dozens of ethical violations, Trump stands by his man because, he says, the people in "coal and energy country" admire Pruitt's work in rolling back environmental protections.
While it's true that Pruitt is a climate-change-denying paranoiac, Politico's Michael Grunwald argues he doesn't deserve his reputation for being one of Trump's most effective deregulators.
Turns out Pruitt doesn't really have his shit together: "Pruitt has taken aim at just about every major Obama-era EPA rule, which has made him a pariah on the left, a hero on the right and the bureaucratic face of Trump’s vocal advocacy for fossil-fuel interests and other industrial polluters. But so far he’s only managed to delay a few rules that hadn’t yet taken effect," he writes. "Pruitt’s problem is that major federal regulations are extremely difficult and time-consuming to enact, and just as difficult and time-consuming to reverse. The rulemaking process can take years of technical and administrative work that Pruitt and his team have not yet had time to do."
Pruitt doesn't have the administrative chops to poison our air and water as quickly as he'd like to, but who might? Andrew Wheeler, the guy the Senate voted last week to confirm as Pruitt's second-in-command at the EPA. (Neither Cantwell nor Murray voted to confirm him.) Wheeler is a slightly nerdier version of Pruitt, and, according to the Washington Post, he's a former coal mining lobbyist and aide to "Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), a high-profile critic of climate science who famously brought a snowball to the Senate floor as a prop."
Wheeler will serve as the acting head of the EPA if Trump boots Pruitt. His previous work for the EPA and his years lobbying for Murray Energy, "the largest underground coal mining company in America," suggest he'll be a slightly more effective deregulator than Pruitt, if only because he might not get so distracted making phone calls to administrative officials asking for an SUV that's as big and cool and shiny as the other cabinet members' SUVs.
According to the Post, Wheeler even had the sense to tell people not to vote for Trump in the primary: "Wheeler wrote a post on his personal Facebook account the day before Super Tuesday pleading with those considering voting for Trump to reconsider. In his six-point critique, Wheeler questioned Trump’s character, business acumen and viability as a general-election candidate."
Given the increasingly long list of cabinet members awaiting hearings, Politico quotes several Senate Republicans who are worried there won't be enough time to appoint a new EPA chief if Trump caves and fires Pruitt. So we'd be stuck with Wheeler for a while, who might not spend as much on security detail, but who seems stable enough to really be the deregulatory champion fossil fuel companies are looking for.
In other news, it's nice outside. Go for a walk while there's still some air to breathe.