House Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats Wednesday to force Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Dems ask Pruitt to justify first-class travel | Obama EPA chief says reg rollback won’t stand | Ex-adviser expects Trump to eventually rejoin Paris accord Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won’t stand Overnight Defense: First Gitmo transfer under Trump could happen ‘soon’ | White House says Trump has confidence in VA chief | Russia concedes ‘dozens’ of civilians injured in Syria clash MORE to fly economy class.
Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorTrump health chief supports CDC research on gun violence Family caregivers need a voice in our political debate Pelosi denounces GOP tax reform as ‘armageddon’ MORE (D-Fla.) forced a vote on the matter as a “motion to recommit” on a GOP-backed bill to delay air pollution standards for brick kilns and wood-fired heaters.
The action was destined to fail. But it nonetheless forced Republicans to go on the record on the issue, which has attracted widespread scorn from environmentalists, Democrats and even some Republicans.
Pruitt in recent weeks has been found to have flown first class or business class frequently on the taxpayer’s dime, costing thousands of dollars.
“There’s no adequate justification for this wasteful spending and abuse of power by Scott Pruitt,” Castor said on the House floor. “And if he enjoys flying first class and staying in luxury hotels, then he should pay for it himself and not ask taxpayers to foot the bill.”
Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusTax law showers cash on lobby firms Toyota says it won’t partner with EPA despite Pruitt claim Paul Ryan refutes rumors of early retirement from House MORE (R-Ill.), chairman of Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Environment, criticized the move as a distraction from the policy at hand.
“I don’t think we build and use bricks to make our airplanes, and I don’t think we power our planes with wood heaters,” he responded on the floor. “It’s just purely politics, and it’s not surprising. Why? Democrats want to distort us from the economic success of the Republican agenda.”
Castor’s amendment failed 186-227, while the underlying bill passed 234-180.
Pruitt is just one of many Trump Cabinet officials under scrutiny for travel costs, including Veterans Affairs Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinShulkin says he has White House approval to root out ‘subversion’ at VA Overnight Energy: Dems ask Pruitt to justify first-class travel | Obama EPA chief says reg rollback won’t stand | Ex-adviser expects Trump to eventually rejoin Paris accord Overnight Defense: First Gitmo transfer under Trump could happen ‘soon’ | White House says Trump has confidence in VA chief | Russia concedes ‘dozens’ of civilians injured in Syria clash MORE, Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeGOP lawmakers: Obama admin ‘hastily’ wrote lead ammunition ban Ex-Interior chief ribs Zinke over ‘secretarial flag’ Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week MORE and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOvernight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won’t stand Big tech lobbying groups push Treasury to speak out on EU tax proposal MORE. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceGreen group calls on Pruitt to pay back first-class flight costs Top Dems seeks answers from HHS on ethics lapses GOP lawmaker calls for Shulkin to resign MORE resigned last year amid bipartisan criticism of his travel expenses.
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox declined to comment on Castor’s action except to refer to Pruitt’s appearance last week on “The Takeout,” a podcast hosted by CBS News’s Major Garrett.
Pruitt has repeatedly stated that his first-class flights came about due to assessments by his security detail, and he promised to fly coach in the future as often as his detail feels he could while remaining safe, including on his next flight.
“The quantity and type of threats that I face are unprecedented,” he said. “They wanted me on a position on the plane to be able to exit expeditiously if an incident arose, and that’s why the change arose.”
“I’ve instructed those same individuals to accommodate those security threats in alternate ways up to and including flying coach, going forward.”
Henry Barnet, director of the agency’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, told Politico that the incidents that caused Pruitt to fly first class were mostly confrontations with angry passengers in airports and on airplanes, including one time that a passenger yelled, “Scott Pruitt, you’re f—ing up the environment!”