U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) requested that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt explain the revised so-called final determination on the historic 54.5 mpg fuel economy emissions standards.
In a phone call Monday, Trump told the EPA chief that "we've got your back" and urged him to "keep his head up" and "keep fighting", according to two administration officials. In the last 24 hours alone, more information has come to light about a Capitol Hill apartment he rented for just $50 a night, including revelations that it was used for GOP fundraisers and is linked to an energy lobbyist whose firm represented a company that received EPA sign-off on a pipeline project.
The rental agreement allowed Pruitt to pay $50 a night for use of the condo on the nights he stayed there.
Records show that while Pruitt was living in the condo, he met in his EPA office with a lobbyist from Hart's firm and two executives from an energy company seeking to scuttle tighter pollution standards for coal-fired power plants.
A joint statement by the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington, as well as the mayors of Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, also decried the EPA's decision.
Rep. Curbelo tweeted on Tuesday, "Major policy differences aside, Scott Pruitt's corruption scandals are an embarrassment to the Administration, and his conduct is grossly disrespectful to American taxpayers. It's time for him to resign or for @POTUS to dismiss him", he said.
More members of Congress on Tuesday called on the EPA's inspector general to look into the arrangement. And though so far the White House claims to be totally behind Pruitt telling reporters.
"Whether Mr. Pruitt and his daughter paid market rate is one of several questions important to determining whether the living arrangement constituted a gift from a lobbyist - a potential violation of ethics rules", he wrote in the letter.
Reps. Ted Lieu, D-California, and Don Beyer, D- Virginia, also asked the inspector general to investigate in a letter on Tuesday. (It seems he's clung on this long in part because he's done such a good job gutting Obama-era regulations.) And if the Times headline wasn't enough to spur Kelly to action, The Washington Post reported on Monday that Pruitt's staff explored the idea of leasing a private jet to accommodate his "travel needs" (the idea was scrapped after estimates came in at roughly $100,000 a month), while The Atlantic revealed that Pruitt himself bypassed the White House to give two of his closest aides huge raises a year ago.
Free-market conservatives who look to Pruitt as a crusader pushing to upend Obama-era regulations on climate change and auto pollution have been nonplussed. Helping to insulate Pruitt is that "he is at the forefront of implementing the president's agenda".
"If he doesn't weather this", McKenna said, "no one is ever going to take another job in Washington".
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