Senate confirms Oklahoma attorney general as EPA administrator

Posted: February 17, 2017 at 11:04 a.m.
Updated: February 17, 2017 at 12:48 p.m.

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2017 file photo, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator-designate, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Republicans voted Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, to send to the full Senate the nomination of Pruitt to lead the EPA. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Friday won Senate confirmation to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a federal agency he repeatedly sued to rein in its reach during former President Barack Obama's administration.

The vote was 52-46 as Republican leaders used their party's narrow Senate majority to push Pruitt's confirmation despite calls from Democrats to delay the vote until requested emails are released next week.

As part of a public records lawsuit, a state judge in Oklahoma on Thursday ordered Pruitt to release thousands of emails that he exchanged with oil and gas executives by Tuesday. Pruitt has refused to release the emails for more than two years.

Democrats boycotted a committee vote on Pruitt's nomination last month, citing his refusal to hand over the emails, and Friday called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to delay Pruitt's confirmation vote until the nominee turns over the thousands of requested emails from his time as attorney general.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York tried to draw a direct line between Pruitt's withheld emails and last year's demands from President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans during the presidential campaign.

[PRESIDENT TRUMP: Timeline, appointments, executive orders + guide to actions in first 100 days]

"Emails! Remember emails?" Schumer asked on the Senate floor. "'We should get them out!' they said about Hillary Clinton. ... If they weren't worried about them, then why rush?"

Republican leaders, however, have shown no signs they intend to wait for the documents to be released before voting to confirm him.

As attorney general, Pruitt filed 14 lawsuits challenging EPA regulations. He joined a multistate lawsuit opposing the Obama administration's plan to limit planet-warming carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Pruitt also sued over the EPA's recent expansion of water bodies regulated under the Clean Water Act. It has been opposed by industries that would be forced to clean up polluted wastewater.

So far, the Senate has confirmed 14 out of 22 Trump Cabinet or Cabinet-level picks requiring confirmation.

Read Saturday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.