GOP Sen.: Those Calling For Pruitt’s Resignation ‘Nitpick Little Things’

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 4: Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Co-Chairman of the Former Governors Caucus, is interviewed by Roll Call in the Capitol, August 4, 2015. Co-Chairmen Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Angus King, I-Me., were also present. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Group

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) on Sunday defended EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt against those who have called for his resignation after a series of damaging scandals. Rounds said Pruitt’s critics were “nitpick[ing] little things.”

Pruitt has faced numerous reports of impropriety in recent days, from using a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act to give two senior aides huge raises (Pruitt denied he knew about the raises) to reportedly reassigning or demoting internal EPA employees who questioned some of his behavior and spending.

Asked whether Pruitt should still be EPA administrator, Rounds told NBC’s Chuck Todd Sunday that he should and that Pruitt was “following through with the policies that the President said he wanted to implement.”

“When does ethics matter, though?” Todd asked. “Because Tom Price did less and was fired.”

Rounds was dismissive.

“The reason why all of the emphasis right now is on Mr. Pruitt is because he is executing these policies, and they’re not real popular policies with a lot of people,” he said. “But he is executing the policies that this President said he would put in place.”

“Does that justify this behavior?” Todd asked.

Rounds said some of the Pruitt coverage could be “overblown,” and added: “Mr. Pruitt has been doing a good job as the secretary of the EPA. He’s moving forward exactly as this President said he would.”

What about the “mixed message,” Todd asked, of ignoring ethics concerns if a Cabinet secretary is advancing Republicans’ favored agenda?

“Which one of the challenges would you like to start?” Rounds asked, before referring to Pruitt’s multimillion dollar security detail. “Would you like to say, oh, he has too big of a security detail? Is that suddenly the reason why you fire someone?”

“At what point, though, does that accumulate and you wonder if he’s not a steward of the taxpayer dollar?” Todd asked.

“Let’s take a look at how many dollars the EPA can actually save, the big picture,” Rounds said, frustrated. “We’ll nitpick little things. ‘He has too many people on the security detail.’ It may add up to more than what the previous guy did. But what about the big picture of how he’s taking care of the taxpayer’s dollars with the department, the EPA?”

“And what about the regulations that he said he’s going to clean up on that he is?” Rounds continued. “And what about the response directly back out to allow businesses to actually grow and expand. This President said number one, we had to have tax policy, we’ve got it. We said we had to have regulatory reform, we’ve got it. Scott Pruitt is a big part of that. He’s executing what the President wants him to execute.”

He had a point: Despite the White House’s light protestations of Pruitt’s reported behavior, Trump has defended his EPA administrator publicly as recently as Saturday night.

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