Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump's choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Capitol Hill January 18, 2017.
The vote came a day after a federal judge ruled the Oklahoma attorney general's office must turn over thousands of emails related to Pruitt's communications with fossil fuel companies, which have a large presence in his state.
Pruitt, having sued the EPA more than a dozen times during the Obama administration, represents the antithesis of what climate groups would consider an environmental-friendly administrator.
Senate Democrats held the floor for hours on Thursday night and through Friday morning, criticizing Pruitt and pushing for a delay of his confirmation.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt confirmed by Senate to serve as EPA administrator. Two Democrats, West Virginia's Joe Manchin and North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp, crossed party lines to approve Pruitt, while Republican Susan Collins of ME voted against him. Two Democrats, Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), voted to confirm Pruitt.
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Maureen Drouin, executive director of Maine Conservation Voters, says having Pruitt leading the EPA will hurt efforts to protect the environment, both in Maine and across the nation. In an earlier, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation, the New York Times revealed that Pruitt had taken a letter written by an Oklahoma oil company and sent it to the EPA on state letterhead. "He will return the EPA to its core mission of protecting public and environmental health while balancing economic impact".
Sen. Susan Collins of ME was expected to be the sole GOP senator to join with Democrats in opposing Pruitt. Pruitt is expected to get enough votes to be confirmed. According to the BBC, Pruitt's appointment is a bit unusual, due to the fact that he has "spent years fighting" the EPA, which he just so happens to now lead.
In their defense, it is hard to imagine what in Pruitt's private correspondence could be more disqualifying - or, from the GOP's perspective, more commendable - than the attorney general's long record of fighting to increase water pollution and accelerate climate change. President Trump campaigned on promises to loosen regulations on energy production and vowed to roll back the Clean Power Plan.
The largely party line vote was 52-46. "We would be wise to wait to vote on Mr. Pruitt's nomination until we had the opportunity to review them - and shame on us if we didn't". But with Pruitt's vote scheduled for today, that ruling provided little help for Democrats and green groups who hoped to use the information as part of the confirmation battle.