Confirmation Hearing Set for Nominee to Head EPA

January 10, 2019

The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee has scheduled a January 16 hearing on Andrew Wheeler’s nomination to be the next EPA Administrator. Senate Democrats were quick to criticize the timing of the confirmation hearing with EPA shuttered because of the partial government shutdown.

President Trump sent Mr. Wheeler’s nomination to the Senate on January 9, although he publicly stated last November that he wanted Mr. Wheeler to lead the Agency. Mr. Wheeler has been serving as EPA’s Acting Administrator since Scott Pruitt resigned last July over ethics questions. The Senate confirmed Mr. Wheeler last April as EPA’s Deputy Administrator. Prior to working at EPA, Mr. Wheeler was an energy lobbyist and a Republican staffer on the Senate EPW Committee.

Some Democratic lawmakers questioned using EPA resources for Mr. Wheeler’s confirmation hearing during the government shutdown. EPA remained open for the first week of the shutdown using carryover funds, but the Agency furloughed over 13,000 employees when those funds ran out on December 28. EPA’s congressional affairs staff has been deemed “essential” and is working during the shutdown.

Senate Republicans say that the shutdown should not affect whether the Senate EPW Committee can hold a hearing, especially when Mr. Wheeler should not need as much time to prepare for the confirmation process.

Democrats on the Senate EPW Committee have already begun their anticipated attacks on Mr. Wheeler’s nomination. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the ranking Democrat on the panel, said he will be looking for concessions from Mr. Wheeler on several policy issues, including abandoning proposals to change the way EPA uses science and freezing federal fuel economy standards.

“Wheeler might not be the cartoon villain that Scott Pruitt was as Administrator, but he’s no Captain Planet,” Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, said in a press release on the president’s nominee.