Senate Dem accuses GOP of delaying Pruitt oversight hearing until August

Senators want to question the EPA chief about investigations into his conduct.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt will testify in front of the main Senate committee with oversight of the EPA in August, where he is expected to face questions about the variety of ethical questions that have been raised during his tenure at the agency.

Pruitt is under scrutiny for reports that he asked EPA aides to help him with personal favors and set up meetings about getting his wife a job, claims that he retaliated against employees who raised concerns about spending at the agency, his living arrangement in a Capitol Hill condo connected to lobbyists for part of his first year in Washington, and the cost of his 24/7 security detail and first-class travel.

The EPA's inspector general has multiple ongoing inquiries into Pruitt and last week the top ethics official in the federal government asked the inspector general to look into the allegations that Pruitt misused his office for personal gain as soon as possible.

The Environmental and Public Works Committee, the main Senate committee with oversight of EPA, met in a separate hearing Wednesday to question two nominees to top positions at EPA. But much of the beginning of the senators' statements was taken up by a discussion of Pruitt's conduct and the newly announced hearing at the end of the summer.

The chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said in a different hearing of the committee on Wednesday that he scheduled the hearing for August because the EPA's inspector general expects to complete several of those investigations later this summer and the committee could ask Pruitt about the office's findings.

The top Democrat on the committee said that he is glad they're having an oversight hearing with Pruitt but that it is "long overdue."

"We shouldn’t go eight weeks before Mr. Pruitt appears and answers for his unprecedented misbehavior," ranking member Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said in his opening statement. "I think I speak for my colleagues – both Republicans and Democrats – that we’ll clear our schedules and make time as soon as possible."

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who has called himself a longtime friend of Pruitt, said some of the news reports about Pruitt are not accurate and emphasized that they are only accusations.

"This is the type of outrageous lies you hear in Washington and people don't have a chance to respond to it," Inhofe said after responding to several of the specific reports about Pruitt's behavior.

A date has not yet been announced for the August hearing.