Feb. 17 (UPI) — In a mostly party-line vote Friday, the Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump‘s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma, was approved as EPA administrator by a 52-46 vote. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota voted in favor of his nomination. Both lawmakers represent states where fossil fuel production is a significant part of the local economy; the energy industry has long opposed EPA regulations as an impediment to business.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted against.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., lauded Pruitt’s confirmation.
“He’s exceptionally qualified,” McConnell said. “He’s dedicated to environmental protection. And, as someone with state government experience, he understands the real-world consequences of EPA actions and knows that balance is the key to making policies that are sustainable over the long-term.”
As Oklahoma’s top justice official, Pruitt clashed with the EPA, filing multiple lawsuits against the agency. His experience opposing EPA regulations put him in step with Trump, who campaigned on a promise to dismantle many environmental regulations enacted by the Obama administration.
Democrats lobbied to delay Pruitt’s confirmation until after emails are released between him and members of the energy industry during his tenure as Oklahoma attorney general. Oil companies are also a significant part of Oklahoma’s economy and Democrats questioned the extent to which the Republican-controlled state government and private sector worked together in legal actions against the EPA.
A federal judge on Thursday ruled those emails must be released, but that process is expected to take several days. Democrats sought unsuccessfully to delay his confirmation vote until early March.
Democrats staged an all-night protest on the Senate floor Thursday into Friday morning to assail Pruitt’s nomination in a bid to run out the clock until a scheduled one-week Senate recess after the close of business Friday, but were unsuccessful.