Senate Republicans call for hearing on Pruitt scandals

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican senators on Wednesday said embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt should testify before the U.S. Congress to address the list of ethics scandals he faces, but stopped short of calling for his resignation.

FILE PHOTO: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2019 for the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Photo

Pruitt came under fire earlier on Wednesday after a report by the Washington Post alleged that the EPA administrator tasked one of his aides and sought help from Republican political donors to find his wife a job.

The report prompted Fox News television and radio host Laura Ingraham to call on Pruitt to resign. She is one of the most prominent Conservative voices to call for his resignation.

The EPA chief has been under scrutiny the last few months amid reports involving questionable spending on travel and use of security detail, connections with lobbyists and industry groups and use of his office for favors.

Pruitt currently faces a dozen investigations by the Office of the Inspector General, Congress and the White House.

An EPA spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

President Donald Trump has so far defended Pruitt and praised him for carrying out his policies despite the barrage of negative media reports.

On Ingraham’s radio show on Wednesday, fellow Oklahoman and Pruitt ally Republican Senator James Inhofe stopped short of calling for his resignation but said if the stream of scandals does not stop, he would be forced to ask him to step down.

“I think something needs to happen to change that,” he told Ingraham. “One of those alternatives would be for him to leave that job.”

A spokeswoman for Inhofe later told Reuters that while the senator is not ready to call for resignation, “he has concerns about the reports coming out and wants to hear directly from Pruitt” in a hearing.

Other Senate Republicans have started to call for more action against the administrator in recent days.

“I support Sen. @JimInhofe’s call for a hearing on EPA Administrator Pruitt’s scandals; and I continue to urge the President to take a hard look at Mr. Pruitt’s actions – as I do not feel that Mr. Pruitt is serving @RealDonaldTrump’s best interests,” Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, chair of the Senate environment committee that has oversight of the EPA, said that he plans to call Pruitt to testify before his panel about his scandals later this year, his spokesman Mike Danylak said.

Barrasso also sent a letter this week to Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the appropriations committee for Interior and Environment, to request that there be sufficient funding for the EPA’s Inspector General’s office to carry out several open investigations into Pruitt’s conduct.

“The Office of Inspector General has not only expanded a number of ongoing reviews, but has also initiated additional reviews concerning a wide range of allegations related to the Office of the Administrator,” his letter said.

Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; editing by Diane Craft