by Ron Gregory
Washington, DC — West Virginia’s two United States Senators voted with the majority today in approving President Donald Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Going into the vote, two of the Senate’s 52-vote Republican majority had announced they would not vote to confirm the controversial appointee. Senator Susan Collins of Maine followed through with her “no” vote but the other announced GOP negative vote did not occur when Arizona Senator John McCain was absent. In the end, Pruitt was confirmed 52-46 with two Democrats voting “yes.” Senior West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin was one of the minority party votes for Pruitt.
Manchin, Capito and others from West Virginia have long been at odds with the EPA as it operated during the administration of former President Barack Obama. They contend that Obama and the EPA made every effort to stymie coal production through over-regulation. Since taking office January 20, Trump has already removed many of Obama’s regulations by executive order.
Leveling accusations that Obama and the EPA waged an eight-year “war on coal,” Republicans and some Democrats like Manchin were constantly critical of the agency. Nevertheless, Manchin created some consternation in the coalfields by endorsing former Democrat Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton after she said her administration “will put a lot of coal miners out of work.” Although both Manchin and Clinton tried to back away from the comment by explaining that Clinton would supply needed federal funds to diversify the coalfield economy, Trump beat her by more than 40 points in the November general election.
With prospects of a 2018 re-election bid for Manchin, he is thought to be carefully considering his votes based on the overwhelming constituent support for Trump. For his part, Manchin reminded reporters, as he has earlier, that “as a former Governor, I understand how crucial it is for an executive leader to have the chance to put his team in place.”
He added, “Every West Virginian wants clean air and clean water and I intend to be vigilant in working with Administrator Pruitt to ensure that our fundamental environmental protections are implemented in a sound and effective way. I believe that the economy and the environment can be balanced and work in harmony. Pruitt knows that I believe it is important that the EPA is working with states like West Virginia not against us.”
Capito, as a Republican, has been expected to vote for all the Trump appointees and has not disappointed the President at this point.
Pruitt had sparked widespread criticism from progressives and Democrats because of his legal battles as Attorney General in Oklahoma. Democrats opposed to him had suggested holding his confirmation until emails a judge ordered handed over to the Center for Media and Democracy were revealed. Pruitt was given until Monday to comply with the Oklahoma judge’s order.
But Republicans pushed forward with the vote. After voting for Pruitt, Capito said, “Attorney General Pruitt is the most thoroughly vetted nominee for administrator in the history of the EPA. He embodies the leadership we need to restore accountability to the agency. He will return the EPA to its core mission of protecting public and environmental health while balancing economic impact. While I am disappointed by the Democrat obstruction that delayed today’s vote, I am very glad the Senate has confirmed Attorney General Pruitt. I know he will be an excellent partner to West Virginia as the next administrator of the EPA.”