tv Senate Democrats Call for Delayed Vote on Scott Pruitts Nomination CSPAN February 17, 2017 10:33am-11:02am EST
throughout my career i have brought people together from all sides of the political spectrum to forge solutions that worked for everyone. one of my proudest moments in my career was watching the indiana legislature pass the healthy indiana plan, which is a program for the uninsured with a bipartisan vote. c.m.s. is a $1 trillion agency and covers over 100 million people, many of whom are amongst our nation's most vulnerable citizens, providing high-quality, accessible health care for these americans isn't just a luxury. it's a necessity and often a matter of life and death. should i be confirmed, i will work with c.m.s. team to ensure that the programs are focused on achieving positive health outcomes and improve the health of the people that we serve. to achieve this goal -- >> we're going to break away from this hearing for a short
bit here as we take you live to the u.s. capitol. senators are speaking this morning on the nomination of scott pruitt to be e.p.a. administrator. >> good morning. at this moment we're in the middle of a 30-hour debate on the nomination of scott pruitt to be the next administrator of the environmental protection agency. those 30 hours would expire at 1:00 p.m. today because the debate began yesterday morning at 7:00 a.m. but the truth is we don't have all the information we need in order to make an informed vote on this nomination. and we don't have the information because the attorney general of oklahoma controls access to emails and other communications that are relevant to the decision the senate is going to make under its responsibility under the constitution. senator merkley: for two years now, the attorney general of oklahoma, scott pruitt, has
stonewalled attempts to make public the records of over 3,000 email communications with members of the fossil fuel industry. two years ago, the center for media and democracy requested those emails through the oklahoma open records act, and the person who decides whether to release those records, the attorney general of oklahoma, scott pruitt, our nominee for the e.p.a. when democrats on the environmental and public works committee requested those records from mr. pruitt during his confirmation process, his answer was, and i quote, i would direct you to make a request of the oklahoma attorney general's office under the oklahoma open records act. there's something particularly strange about the nominee who controls the records saying ask e in my official capacity as a.g. knowing he hasn't responded to those requests year after year. he was telling the u.s. senate
to get in line behind more than 50 other requests that had been made to him in his capacity as a.g. that he had not responded to. and then following up, senator whitehouse put in the request to the oklahoma attorney general's office using the oklahoma open records act, to add to that list of requests and you can imagine what the result was. the answer was, no response. we have still not gotten those records. but yesterday afternoon, oklahoma county district judge alicia haynes timmons ruled on the side of transparency and openness. she ordered the attorney general of oklahoma, mr. pruitt, to release those emails and associated communications. judge timmons said, and i quote, there was an abject failure to provide prompt and reasonable access to documents requested.
scott pruitt's stonewalling of public records was, in her words, an abject failure to provide prompt and reasonable access. so understand under the court order, the first batch of emails and associated communications will be released next tuesday. and then there will be a second batch that will be released under her order in 10 days. that's sunday the 26th. now, these are going to be scanned documents that will then be transferred to the initial organization that asked for them. so they go to wisconsin. then we will get copies and we will attempt to review them, but they're going to be p.d.f.'s. they won't be easily searchable documents, if you will. it will take some time to look through these. therefore, we requested this morning through unanimous consent request that the vote be put off until march 3.
and march 3 would give us equivalent of about 48 to 72 hours we get real documents from both batches of emails in order to examine them. the majority leader objected to that request. so we put in a second unanimous consent request, and that request was at least give us access to those first batch of emails before we make this vote. now, we're going to be out next week so therefore delaying this vote until the monday we return would not delay the business of the senate at all, and it would grateful honor the responsibility of the senate under the advice and consent clause of the constitution to determine if scott pruitt is fit or unfit to hold this particular office. so that is where we are. that was objected to as well by the majority leader, and, therefore, i made a motion to
extend debate to the 30 hours of debate. this is the motion in order under our rules to extend that debate, and i moved to extend the debate for an additional 248 hours which would take us to 9:00 p.m. monday, february 27, when we return. so that is a very responsible motion. we will be voting on it at 12:30, and of course, we will be encouraging all of our colleagues to stand up for exercising the responsibility of the senate in a well-done manner by examining these emails before we take a vote. so i'm pleased to be here with my colleagues who have been very involved in this effort to make sure that we exercise our responsibility of advice and consent in a proper manner, and i'm going to turn this over to senator carper who as our ranking member of the environmental protection, e.p.w. committee, environmental
and public works committee, has been doing an excellent job helping us address this nomination. senator carper: thank you. i want to thank you for the great work, sheldon, and these guys haven't had a lot of sleep. brian, thank you for your leadership. chuck. the shoe was on the other foot -- what if the shoe was on the other foot? at if we had a nominee who had a lot of emails that the republicans wanted access to? maybe it's for benghazi or maybe it had to do with the private server? do you think they would go quietly in the night taking no for an answer? no way. no way. we have a president who last year in the campaign said his job -- a big part of his job is to destroy the environmental protection agency. he said it all year. when he was nominated he said
the same thing. elected, same thing. and sometimes we don't know what he says is the truth or alternative facts. but when he nominated scott pruitt, i think we got -- hey, he really means it. and why? because for six years scott pruitt eliminated the environmental protection unit within his a.g.'s office. he raised millions of dollars and he used those millions of dollars to help lead the effort to combat e.p.a. on so many issues that are important to the health of our country. sometimes you can tell what somebody's going to do by what they say. sometimes you have to wait until they actually do it. well, donald trump's said all last year, this is what i'm going to do, and now he's got a guy nominated, poised to be confirmed to lead the e.p.a. who is going to lead him in
exactly the wrong direction. we have an obligation to do something about it. we are not boycotting. we are not slow walking. we are trying to find the person that will lead this organization be responsible for our health, well-being of our kids and grandchildren, he actually has a commitment to clean air, clean water and so forth. last thing i will say, i am an old naval flight officer, old governor. i must be really old. we spent time, 23 years as a naval flight officer and we'd go out and fly our missions, a lot of missions in southeast asia and there were monsoons over there and we had to find out where they were and we never wanted to fly blind. we use our radars to find out where the cells were for the bad weather. we'd fly at different altitude to stay out of the bad weather. we wanted to complete our missions to come home safe and sound. we need to do our preflight. we need to find out where the storms are. we need to avoid flying blind.
if we simply move forward without the time to not just have access to these emails but to act on them, we have missed a great opportunity. and the folks who vote for this man, for this nominee without knowing the facts that are here clearly at our disposal, they will be in a few days, we make a huge mistake not just for them politically but more importantly for our country. with that having been said, i get to yield to sheldon whitehouse. senator whitehouse: so let me start with a little comparison that i think offers some evidence about the sincerity and good faith of the nominee pruitt. for two years he failed to rovide a single email pursuant to the open records request. for two years. a judge looked at it and said,
give us those emails tuesday, and he's going to comply. this is a, what, six-day job, as determined by the job. this is a six-day job to produce that first traunch of emails and for more than 750 days he refused to do it. that sends a pretty strong signal about the good faith of this individual. and the idea that the majority leader is now going to try to scoot through this nomination one step ahead of the emails with his own caucus unable to see what is in them is another sign of some rather dark forces at work. and that's not all that the majority leader is asking the republican caucus to vote on
without knowing. we also don't know a thing about this man's dark money operation. this is a man who ran a multimillion-dollar dark money operation, and the republicans have covered that completely over. it is a black hole of secrecy. please don't pretend that there isn't a possibility of a conflict of interest in the arrangements that caused the millions of dollars to flow into the dark money operation. but we don't know. we don't know. what we do know is that there is one hell of a conflict of interest surrounding this individual. may be the worst ever in a nominee. we don't know how bad it is. we just know that it's pretty darn bad, and in my experience as a prosecutor, conflicts of interest end badly. so the majority leader is asking his people to vote aye on a very, very difficult case.
he is asking for willful blindness, willful blindness is a legal doctrine that is a ulpable state of mind. intentional ful, refusal to inform yourself. that is precisely what is being done on the floor of the senate right now. those who vote for this man will own this vote because, as senator schumer said about mr. flynn, this isn't the end of the story. this is the beginning of the story. and i'll turn it over now to my .ood friend from hawaii senator shotts: thank you. before i give you my brief
remarks, if you weren't up between 3:00 and 5:00 this morning, sheldon whitehouse was. he may have made senate history. he, i think, performed the first ocean acidification experiment on the senate floor. so check it out. i haven't seen it yet. [laughter] senator whitehouse: i got unanimous consent for it, though. senator schatz: i think the parliamentarian was tired. the majority leader is putting the republicans in an awful spot. i mean, maybe there's nothing in these emails to be worried about. i hope for the country and for the planet in these 3,000 emails that the attorney general of oklahoma spent 750 days refusing to release, that there is nothing improper or worrysome or concerning -- worrisome or concern but we'll about to find out on tuesday.
if i were a member of the republican caucus, i would be extremely worried about taking a vote at 12:30 today without seeing those emails. they are being put in an absolutely untenable position because they will now own whatever comes out on tuesday and in subsequent releases of those emails. so we are not suggesting indefinite delay. we are not suggesting delay for delay's sake. we are suggesting that there is an important trove of information that will be available in three business days. and it is noteworthy that you all know, we normally vote, last vote thursday afternoon sometimes. maybe a friday morning. first friday afternoon and it wasn't the department of energy to have a secretary in charge of our nuclear arsenal or the d.o.i. or the department of commerce. it was pruitt, and i was trying to figure out why we were in such a rush and why
congressional delegations to nato and to the munich security conference were delayed or cancelled. and then when the judge made her decision to require the disclosure of those emails, i understood what they were in such a hurry about and that is to get this vote done before those emails are released. so all we're asking under our obligation to advise and consent is for a couple more days to grab some additional information and make a choice. and if there's nothing in those emails that are concerning, then we know the vote count won't change two mondays from now. i would like to introduce our great leader, someone who's become a real
climate champion, chuck schumer. senator schumer: thank you, brian. i want to thank jeff merkley and those who led the charge. all the members. chairman carper, senator whitehouse, senator schatz, who has been a beacon on clean air
and clean water change in this congress. let me just say for years, it seems we all heard from republicans, including president trump. all we heard from them is emails, emails, emails. countless taxpayer dollars, congressional resources were spent discussing emails. well, just yesterday, as you heard an oklahoma judge ruled that scott pruitt, president trump's nominee to lead the e.p.a., must turn over approximately 3,000 emails relating to his communications with the fossil fuel industry. you'd expect my colleagues to be up in arms, my republican colleagues. ter all, in 2013, gina mccarthy waited 122 days to be confirmed for e.p.a. because they felt she wasn't honoring a commitment to transparency. remember the strain over lisa jackson's emails. surely my republican colleagues
would be concerned about a similar lack of transparency from a soon-to-be e.p.a. administrator. but what is the republican leadership's response? strap blinders on their members and rush pruitt through. the absolute height of hypocrisy, the same standard they had for lisa jackson and for gina mccarthy they ought to have for scott pruitt. there's no good reason for it. to wait a few extra days to go over pruitt's emails is not the worst thing in the world. it's the smart and responsible thing to do. it's not the worst thing in the world to take a few extra days to vet someone that will have immense power over our nation's streams, skies, even the lead levels in our homes, our schools and our water supply. and we offered senator mcconnell to do another nominee today so we could still -- so
it would not even slow down the process of putting in the cabinet. he said no. we know why he said no. my colleagues have made that clear. so let's think. senator mcconnell is going to come here in a few minutes and talk about the fact that we're holding up the cabinet. well, yeah. senator mcconnell and donald trump wanted us to have all those cabinet officers approved the first day we got -- first day after he became president. can you imagine what would have happened if we rushed through all of these nominees on day one? would we ever have learned that steve muchein hads a undis-- mnuchin had an undisclosed account in the cayman islands or betsy devos couldn't lead the education committee. and just think if the republicans had their way. andrew puzder might be the
labor secretary right now. and why are our republican colleagues, why do they want to rush through this cabinet? they're ashamed of them. they don't want the light of day. senator mcconnell is ashamed of these cabinet members, i believe. many of my republican colleagues i know are. it is the worst cabinet i think in the history of america. certainly in my lifetime. swamp cabinet, billionaires, bankers. one-third of the american people have less wealth. add them all up. you add up the wealth of the bottom third of the american people, there's less wealth than in this cabinet of 15 people. this represents america? it's a betrayal of donald trump's promise to represent working men and women. it's exactly the opposite on every count. it's the worst cabinet in terms
of conflicts of interest. it's the worst cabinet in terms of coming from a rareified sector of american society, the top 1%, the billionaires. and it's the worst cabinet in terms of representing the views of average americans. slash social security and medicare? gut our clean air and clean water laws? be so hostile to working people that robots are better? what kind of cabinet is this? so we know why our republican colleagues -- what's happening with prue sit a metaphor for the -- pruitt is a metaphor for the whole cabinet. rush it through. no daylight. the disinfectant of sunlight might bring most of these cabinet members down. let me just show you an example. i want to read to you the number of people who spoke, democrats who spoke against the
cabinet members and republican members -- republican senators who spoke for the cabinet members. they're ashamed. they don't want to defend these people. they want to rush them through because the cabinet is just as a whole so awful. devos, nine republicans speaking for, 69 democrats speaking against. we don't have 69. one day we will at the rate they're going. [laughter] mnuchin three republicans four for, 14 democrats against. mulvaney, 8 republicans four, 29 democrats against. price, eight republicans four, 38 republicans. pruitt, democrats, again -- did i get that wrong for a few of them? should i say them again? pruitt, 14 republicans for, 45 democrats against. puzder, no republicans for, only three democrats got a chance, fortunately, to show who mr. puzder is.
tillerson, six republicans for. democrats, 27 against. they don't want sunlight on this cabinet. they want to rush it. we have gone america, senator mcconnell, we have done america a service by showing who these people are and now every time betsy devos tries to hurt public education, the american eople will have their eye on her. when senator price decides to gut health care -- secretary price now decides to gut health care, the american people will have their eyes on him. on issue after issue, the american people are learning not only who this cabinet is but who donald trump really is norkts the donald trump who campaign -- really is, not the donald trump who campaigned for people, campaigned for people and said he was for the working
people in the campaign. his broken promises just in this cabinet alone are legion. >> so we're open to some questions. reporter: what do you think you hope to get out of this? republicans are based on mr. pruitt's litigation record, statements about environmental will hy would he -- how they change the vote? >> you can be surprised what you find in emails and associated comments. it's not just emails that will be released but think about the fact that we know that the attorney general operated his office in very close association with the fossil fuel industry. senator merkley: on one occasion, he took a letter that they asked him to send to the e.p.a. and he put it on his
stationery and sent it word for word, not consulting it with anyone else, no stakeholders in oklahoma, no other parts of the public. he simply made his office an extension of that industry. meanwhile, he became very deeply involved in fundraising, including dark money fundraising. my colleague from rhode island, senator whitehouse, has laid out the web of organizations, the web of campaign funding organizations and lobbying organizations and the connections that they had to the attorney general of oklahoma. so we anticipate that there may well be in these emails and associated correspondence information that provides light and details regarding both the campaign money and the actions of his office. that is described as a conflict of interest. those conflict of interestses, if they are tied too closely together, then edge into the issue of criminalality. but do we know? no. we have to have the emails in order to see. i would defer to my colleague f you want to amplify on that.
reporter: not knowing what the evidence was in the case, -- >> it's ridiculous for the senate to go through advice and consent without the evidence. senator carper: we want to know the truth. when scott pruitt said he thought mercury might be a problem, we said, what's really the truth? let's see what he's done with respect to mercury coming out of coal-fired utilities. he sat on the opposite side of it. methane coming out in the air, huge contributor to global warming, what does he say? this is what he's done? no, it's not. no, it's not. time and time again, cross-border pollution, you name it. he says the right thing but when you look at his actual record, it's not there. it's not there. we want to know the truth. and to the idea of having a guy or gal run e.p.a. whose brought suit time and time again
against the e.p.a. and now he's going to be the administrator of e.p.a. and be on the other side of the case. so now all of a sudden you are the administration of e.p.a. and these lawsuits you brought and dismiss them and say i was wrong, baloney. we want to know the truth. jefferson said if people will know the truth they will make a mistake. if my colleagues know the truth they won't make a mistake. >> last question. reporter: senator schumer, i have a question for you. on this topic, there are democrats who are going to support pruitt. what's your message to them? are they are they wrong in mr. schumer: look, everybody person is making up their conscience. the overwhelming number of democrats for him. overwhelming numbers against. is there any -- for him. susan. right. we respect her for doing t we wish more republicans would. reporter: what was your
reaction to the president's omments yesterday? >> you said a mouthful. senator schumer: i would say one other thing. there is a -- there's speculation, there's an a.p. report that says that they are considering, the administration, is considering 100,000 national guard troops to round up immigrants. that's despicable. that would be one of the most un-american things that would happen in the last century. i just hope it's not true. the fact that it might even be considered is appalling. >> thank you-all very much. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]