Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Capitol Hill January 18, 2017 in Washington, DC.
The Senate is expected to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday in a mostly party line vote.
The confirmation vote comes after contentious hearings during which Democratic lawmakers questioned Pruitt over his ties to fossil fuel companies, his multiple legal challenges to EPA regulations and his public statements questioning the science behind climate change.
Senate Democrats boycotted a committee vote to move forward Pruitt’s nomination earlier this month and stretched debate before the full Senate into the early hours of Friday. On Thursday evening, some Democrats again called for Pruitt’s confirmation vote to be delayed after an Oklahoma judge ordered his office to turn over thousands of communications with fossil fuel companies to a watchdog group.
HAPPENING NOW: Headed to floor to demand @SenateMajLdr delay #Pruitt vote until judge releases 3k emails w/ Big Oil
But the nominee appears to have the votes needed to win confirmation on Friday.
Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, both from energy-producing states, said they will vote with Republicans to confirm Pruitt. Just one GOP senator, Susan Collins of Maine, said she would vote against Pruitt.
That would put the vote at 53-47 in favor of confirmation.
While Democrats and environmentalists bristled at Pruitt’s nomination from the start, conservatives and the energy industry have welcomed his efforts to place more power over drilling and mining regulations in the hands of states. He set up a “federalism unit” at the office of the Oklahoma attorney general to “combat unwarranted regulation and overreach by the federal government.”
Pruitt is seen as an ideal candidate to execute Trump’s promises to scale back the EPA’s Obama-era initiatives. He has been a leading figure in a campaign by Republican attorneys general to sue government agencies over some of President Barack Obama’s landmark achievements, including the Affordable Care Act and regulations to reduce the impacts of climate change.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigation found Pruitt’s office in 2011 signed a letter criticizing environmental regulations that was drafted by lawyers for Devon Energy.