Saturday, February 18, 2017

Democrats can't muster votes to stop Pruitt

A fourth bad week for President Barking Yam could have been worse.  It wasn't a foregone conclusion that the Okie AG who sued the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of oil companies -- fourteen times -- was to be confirmed as head of the EPA.  But Senate Democrats fell down again on the way to preventing the GOP from drowning government in the bathtub.

The U.S. Senate (yesterday) afternoon confirmed President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, even as he faces a new court order.

An Oklahoma district court judge Thursday ordered Pruitt, the state’s former attorney general, to turn over thousands of communications with major coal, oil and gas companies from his time in office.

The nonprofit watchdog Center for Media and Democracy had requested the public records two years ago, and the judge ruled there had been an “unreasonable” delay in responding to the request, demanding that Pruitt comply by the end of the day Monday.

The Senate confirmed his nomination 52-46 (Friday) afternoon, even after Democratic senators expressed outrage overnight that Republicans were going ahead as scheduled despite the judge’s ruling.

One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who had said she would vote no before Thursday’s news of the court ruling, held to her vow to vote against Pruitt today. Another, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., skipped the vote, as did Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.

But two Democrats -- Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – voted for the controversial nominee, giving him the votes he needed.

Maybe those emails will matter to someone next week, as we wave goodbye to the cow leaving the barn.  If this was the strongest response the Sierra Club could manage, I'm not hopeful for the resistance.

Am the only one embarrassed by this demonstration of professional activism?  This is where your donations go, folks.  Let's all sign more petitions so that Cornyn and Cruz and Culberson have enough toilet paper to wipe their asses with.  Update: On the other hand, it could be worse.

If Chuck Schumer could enforce caucus discipline the way that Mitch McConnell can, Trump would be looking for some other lousy white guy to dismantle the nation's regulations keeping our air, water, and groundwater protected from avaricious corporations.  But Donnelly, Heitkamp, and Manchin are all Blue Dogs in solid red states (+18 Trump in 2016) running for re-election in 2018, so they have a hall pass to keep voting like Republicans for another two years in hopes they can hang on and avoid letting the Democrats slip into superminority status.

Here is some solace for those who scowl at their monitor or phone/tablet screen every time I slap the Donkeys: Amy Davidson at the New Yorker cuts spineless Ds a little slack with sharp points about why Pruitt is also our nation's spineless Republican problem: nobody from starboard dares stand up to Cheetolini (except a few, like Collins and McCain, and then only on the rare occasion).  A caution to those who prefer their reading at junior-high level and with short paragraphs: this isn't the excerpt you're looking for.

There are two answers to the question of why Republicans rushed Pruitt through, not mutually exclusive. One is that this is just another instance of something that has been seen repeatedly in the weeks since Donald Trump took office: the Republicans’ floppy pose of deference to Trump. They have let him do what he wants, for the most part, unless a shocking “Oprah” tape from the past comes back to haunt an already unfit nominee. (As William Finnegan has written, in that case, involving Andrew Puzder, the failed Labor Secretary nominee, the tape only stopped the senators when combined with his illegal household help and his crudely expressed disdain for working Americans.) They hadn’t stood up to Trump on his executive order barring entry to people from seven countries and to all refugees, despite the direct risk it posed to many residents of red states, not to mention to the Constitution. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan hadn’t managed to say much more than that “regrettably, the rollout was confusing,” as if he might have erased the insult to American values with a PowerPoint presentation and a can-do smile. Their hurt speeches on Friday morning about how the Democrats didn’t respect Trump’s choices came less than twenty-four hours after their President spoke casually about blowing Russian boats out of the water; accused his opponents of staging fake anti-Semitic attacks; questioned the legitimacy of the electoral system, the courts, and the media; and asked a black journalist, April Ryan, if the legislators in the Congressional Black Caucus were “friends” of hers, and if she could maybe set them up with a meeting with him.

This is a weak answer, in part because of what is at stake: not only America’s air and water and its children’s health but the future of the planet. Pruitt is so shameless a choice that former E.P.A. employees who have served under Presidents from both parties sent a letter to the Senate expressing concern about his appointment, noting his demonstrated lack of interest in enforcing environmental laws, his stance on climate change, and his failure to demonstrate that he would “put the public’s welfare ahead of private interests.”

Then again, why would this Republican Party want to block Pruitt? This is the other answer: the senators pushed him through because they wanted to, for their own non-Trump reasons. He is, in many ways, more typical of where many congressional Republicans stand than Trump is, though Pruitt might express his views more crudely and with fewer circumlocutions than some. His ties to industry are, in many cases, their ties to industry, too. (Jane Mayer has covered the influence of the Koch brothers, for example, in this regard.) When Ryan talks about dismantling the regulatory state, he is not far from Pruitt. Indeed, when asked about the influence of human activity on climate change, Ryan has said that he just didn’t know what it all added up to, “and I don’t think science does, either.” In a statement that Ryan issued in December, 2009, he accused certain scientists who did recognize the effect of using “statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” He added that any rules restricting American industry in the name of fighting climate change would be a “tough sell” in Wisconsin, “where much of the state is buried under snow.” Similarly, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, tends to deal with climate change by saying that he is not a scientist. In the opportunistic calculations of the congressional Republicans, Pruitt may not even count as a price they have to pay, or a Trumpian burden to bear. To the contrary: he is their reward.

If fascism is going to keep flourishing in America, it will be wrapped in the sturdy embrace of pretty much every Republican, along with a handful of lily-livered conservative Democrats.  At some point, somebody (who is not already) has to say and do the things that begin to peel away Hair Furor's Congressional support.  His own words and actions don't seem to be having much effect yet.

Update: Down With Tyranny sees Susan Collins fighting judo with Democrats.  I thought martial arts were to be used in countering stronger opponents, so maybe this is more three-dimensional chess.  Some Democrat was allegedly good at that once upon a time. 

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