Democrats and Republicans in Congress joined virtual hands Thursday to celebrate the resignation of Scott Pruitt, the embattled administrator of President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency.
A flood of scandals threatened to engulf Pruitt long before his resignation Thursday afternoon. As the news broke late in the day, it was greeted with a rare wave of bipartisan celebration from Capitol Hill.
“The controversies surrounding the former administrator of @EPA had become a major impediment & necessitated a leadership change,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted.
“I believe the President was right to accept @EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation,” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) echoed in a tweet of his own.
Even some Republican lawmakers who praised Pruitt’s work at the EPA said they agreed with Trump’s decision given then overwhelming weight of scandals and investigations — over a dozen, including several by Congress itself — that grew up around Pruitt during his tenure at the agency.
“It has become increasingly challenging for the EPA to carry out its mission with the administrator under investigation,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement. “President Trump made the right decision to accept his resignation.”
Trump announced the news by tweet on Thursday afternoon, saying only that he was thankful for the “outstanding job” Pruitt had done. Andrew Wheeler, the Senate-confirmed deputy EPA administrator, will take over as acting administrator on Monday, Trump said.
The announcement hardly came as a surprise to anyone who saw the wave of fresh Pruitt scandals break this week, including revelations he hired the former treasurer of his political action committee to oversee an office that decided which of his records to release to the public, had his staff scrub potentially controversial meetings from his calendars before releasing them, asked staffers to help his wife get a job, and considered setting up a limited-liability corporation to skirt federal financial disclosure requirements.
Conservatives have been sharpening their knives for Pruitt in recent weeks, as BuzzFeed News pointed out. Radio host Laura Ingraham and the editorial board of the National Review both openly called for his resignation. Even former Pruitt ally Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) publicly chastised him last month.
Inhofe had nothing but good things to say about Pruitt after the news broke Thursday. But several House Republicans joined their Senate colleagues in publicly airing their relief.
“There have been too many ethical lapses under Administrator Pruitt’s watch and this decision is in the best interests of the agency and our country,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) said in a statement.
“While this doesn’t undo any of the reckless decisions Pruitt has made, it does provide an opportunity for us to stop being distracted by his misconduct and refocus on the consequential policy being made at the @EPA every day,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) said on Twitter.
“I was proud to join my legislative brother, @RepCurbelo, months ago in calling for Pruitt’s removal,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) echoed in her own tweet tagging Curbelo. “That was so many scandals ago. And many degradations of our environment ago.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Republican governor of California, even took to Twitter to weigh in Thursday afternoon.
“It’s about time time,” Schwarzenegger said. “He will go down in history books the worst EPA Administrator we’ve ever had.”
Congressional Democrats were even less constrained in their relief — and, at times, downright glee — at the news of Pruitt’s departure.
“A well-deserved, one-way ticket back to Oklahoma,” quipped Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “In coach!”
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California, not Florida.