February 2, 2017 / 4:11 PM / 3 years ago

Senate panel advances Trump EPA chief pick over Democrats' boycott

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Senate committee suspended rules on Thursday to approve U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, amid a boycott of his nomination by the panel’s Democratic members.

John Barrasso, chair of the Senate’s environment and public works committee, said the panel would “suspend several rules” temporarily to approve the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator.

Democrats on the committee boycotted Wednesday’s meeting to approve Pruitt, saying that he doubts the science of climate change and has too many conflicts of interest with the companies he would be charged with regulating.

The full Senate will now vote on Pruitt’s nomination. The date for that has not yet been confirmed, but with Republicans holding a majority in the Senate, the nomination will likely be approved.

Barrasso justified the move by saying that Pruitt, who sued the EPA 14 times as Oklahoma’s top attorney, reflects the agenda of the president who won the 2016 election.

“Elections have consequences and a new president is entitled to put in place people who advance his agenda,” he said.

Environmental groups, which have strongly criticized the choice of Pruitt, raised concerns that the nomination was pushed through to the full Senate.

“If he is approved by the full Senate, he will start on day one as the worst EPA administrator in history,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.

Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Frances Kerry

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