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Democrats took a blowtorch to Scott Pruitt on the Hill

“In any other administration, Republican or Democrat, you would be long gone by now," one Democrat said.

At least Scott Pruitt didn’t rent a “party jet,” right guys?

That’s how one Republican tried to shrug off one of the numerous ethics scandals plaguing the EPA chief, who appeared on the Hill Thursday for a hearing with the House Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss his agency's budget. But considering Pruitt faces at least 10 federal investigations for maintaining an unusually large security detail, fraternizing with lobbyists, and taking first-class flights on taxpayer dime, at least some lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle — took the EPA chief to task.


Democrats, especially, threw in a few burns. And even Pruitt acknowledged the ethics investigations in his opening statement.

“Let’s have no illusions about what is really going on here,” he said. “Those who have attacked the EPA and have attacked me are doing so because they want to attack and derail the president’s agenda and undermine this administration’s priorities.”

”I’m simply not going to let that happen,” Pruitt added.

Well, at least he tried. We broke down some of lawmakers’ harshest cracks below.

READ: Scott Pruitt is the target of no less than 10 federal investigations

“The buck stops nowhere.”

“Did the taxpayers spend $30,000 for a security detail to accompany you on a trip to Disneyland?” Democratic Rep. Peter Welch from Vermont asked Pruitt. The EPA chief is currently under investigation for bringing his security detail on a trip to Disneyland, with his family, as well as the Rose Bowl, at taxpayers’ expense.

“I’m not sure,” Pruitt said.

“That’s knowable,” Welch pressed. “It’s really starting to seem like there’s something on your desk with a motto that says, ‘the buck stops nowhere.”

“In any other administration … you would be long gone by now.”

After Pruitt avoided questions about the banning of a hazardous chemical that's been under review for years at the EPA, Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey said, "I just think that every indication we have is that you really should resign, and you are undeserving of the public trust,”

“In any other administration, Republican or Democrat, you would be long gone by now,” he added.


“Do you have any remorse?”

That’s how Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo from California began her line of questioning. “The first question that I want to ask you might be a little unusual,” she said. “Do you have any remorse for the excessive spending on behalf of yourself?” Pruitt has spent at least $105,000 of taxpayer cash on his first-class flights for security reasons.

“I think there are changes I’ve made already, the change from first class to coach travel,” Pruitt said.

“Are you going reimburse? What are you going to do about it?” she pressed.

“You simply had no idea what your staff was up to.”

Did Pruitt know about the pay raises for his staff at the center of at least two ethics investigations? He won’t say he didn’t.

“I was not aware of the amount—” Pruitt began to answer, when asked by New York's Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko about the issue.

“Not the amount, were you aware of the raises?” Tonko interjected.

“I was not aware of the amount, nor was I aware of the bypass, or the PPO process not being respected,” Pruitt said, referring to the Presidential Personnel Office, which had nixed the raises.

He did not deny having knowledge of the raises themselves. It’s at least an inelegant dodge, if not an admission that he knew.

READ: Even the White House is investigating Scott Pruitt's soundproof booth now

“The opprobrium you’ve generated … is actually warranted.”

Rep. Ryan Costello, who’s retiring from Congress, offered the harshest criticism of any Republican.

“I think the opprobrium that you’ve generated on some of these spending decisions is actually warranted,” Costello told Pruitt. “I’ve reviewed your answers and I find some of them lacking or insufficient. And I believe you’ve not demonstrated the requisite good judgment required of an appointed executive branch official on some of these spending items.”


“A classic display of innuendo and McCarthyism”

And yet another Republican said that the inquiries into what Pruitt’s been up to amounted to “McCarthyism.”

“To the public, I think this has been a classic display of innuendo and McCarthyism that we’re seeing too often here in Washington, that unfortunately I think works against civility and respect for people in public office,” said Congressman David McKinley of West Virginia.

“That’s good.”

Other Republicans, however, didn’t appear to want to go too hard on Pruitt.

"I apologize for the abrasiveness of some of my colleagues who would rather tarnish your reputation that address the problems facing the nation," Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, opened his questioning.

Another, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, said that first class flights might look bad, but they’re not illegal. And at least Pruitt’s not leasing “party jets that were used by rock stars.”

“Have you ever rented a party jet?” Barton asked Pruitt.

“No,” Pruitt said.

“That’s good,” Barton acknowledged.

Cover image: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt reads from a paper outlining the threats against him as he testifies during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 26, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)