Calling your Senators works… By all accounts, Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski [Alaska] and Susan Collins [Maine] are going against the wishes of their party to vote in opposition of Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos because of the pushback they’re received from their constituents. Earlier this week in Anchorage, there were reports of over 200 people filling Murkowski’s office, demanding that she vote against DeVos, one of our nation’s most outspoken anti-public education crusaders. “I have heard from thousands — truly thousands — of Alaskans who shared their concerns about Mrs. DeVos as secretary of education,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor yesterday. “They’ve contacted me by phone, by e-mail, in person, and their concerns center, as mine do, on Mrs. DeVos’s lack of experience with public education and the lack of knowledge that she portrayed in her confirmation hearing.” And, that pressure, at least in the cases of Murkowksi and Collins, seems to have made a difference. Either their public education-loving constituents forced the Senators to abandon DeVos, or they gave the Senators the political cover they needed to vote against someone who they already knew was grossly under-qualified for the position. Either way, the result was the same. Two Republicans came out publicly saying that they would be voting against one of Trump’s nominees, and it’s something that we have to learn from and build on. [Murkowski, asked if she was afraid of backlash from Trump, said, “I cannot live in fear of a tweet.” Now we just need to help other Republicans find their backbones.]
Will this grassroots pressure that’s building against DeVos be enough to sway any other Senators, and keep the Amway billionaire from the President’s Cabinet? In all likelihood, we’ll find out tomorrow, when her nomination is expected to go to the floor of the Senate for a vote. [With Murkowski and Collins pledging to vote against DeVos, we only need to turn one more Republican in order to keep her from being confirmed.] So, now, while I’m waiting to see whether or not we’ve been successful in stopping DeVos, I’ve decided to focus my attention on Scott Pruit, Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Given that, according to a recent poll, 67% of Americans want the EPA to either be strengthened or maintain the same level of environmental protection, I have to think that there might be an opportunity to build a movement against Pruit, who has made it his life’s work to fight the EPA on behalf of corporations, who, by he way, have rewarded him very handsomely for his efforts. Not only did he close the Oklahoma’s Environmental Protection Unit shortly after being elected Attorney General of that state in 2010, but he actually filed 14 cases against the EPA on behalf of his donors while Attorney General. As journalist Bill Moyers says in the video embedded below, “Pruitt is Oklahoma’s attorney general. His salary of more than $260,000 is paid by taxpayers, but Pruitt really works for the energy industry. He’s a political profiteer whose career in public office is built on taking money from corporations and doing their bidding.”
In Pruitt’s confirmation hearing before the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, the following graphic was presented by Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. It shows those companies in the energy sector – that Pruitt was elected to regulate – that we know have funneled money to him. Whitehouse, as you’ll see in the Moyers’ video, paid special attention to Devon Energy, an oil and gas company on whose behalf Pruitt intervened with the EPA. Whitehouse demonstrated how the company’s lawyers had drafted letters for Pruitt to put on his own Attorney General letterhead and send off to the EPA, demanding that they raise limits on methane gas leaking from drilling operations.
And, as in the case of DeVos, it’s not just Democrats that are horrified by the nomination. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who was one of the two Republicans to back away from DeVos, recently expressed her concern about Pruitt and “the number of times he has sued the very agency that he has now been tapped to lead.” And Christie Todd Whitman, the EPA administrator under George W. Bush, has warned that Pruitt is “disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does.”
The environment isn’t a partisan issue. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t believe me, just listen to Republican President Richard Nixon, who launched the EPA.
This is an area where we should be able to find common cause with conservatives who appreciate the outdoors. Just look at the legislation that Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah proposed last week to sell over 3 million acres of public land across 10 western states. Republicans thought that it would sail through the legislature, but the backlash from both the right and left was incredible. And Chaffetz just took to Instagram to say that he was pulling the bill. This, to me, demonstrates that there’s potential here.
If the poll noted above is correct, and fewer than one-third of Republicans want the EPA to be weakened, how is it that more Republicans aren’t standing up to Pruitt? And can’t we, by mobilizing our networks in red states, increase the pressure on Senators to do the right thing, and not put a man like Pruitt who is being bankrolled by the worst of fossil fuel industry in charge of environmental protection?
I mean, I know some folks on the right probably don’t care that Pruitt has said the EPA’s research into the effects of fracking is both “unnecessary” and “politically motivated”, and that he doesn’t really see much need in trying to address global climate change, but who wants coal mining waste dumped in the rivers that they fish in? There are very tangible things on the table here, and we just need for people to see it.
I have more to say, but I’m falling asleep… Here, while I go brush my teeth, is a short video by Bill Moyers about Pruitt, and how vitally important it is that we stop Pruitt.