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“The waste of taxpayer money matters”: Republican lawmakers are getting fed up with Pruitt

The lotion scandal is just the latest for the embattled EPA administrator.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Testifies Before Senate Appropriations Cmte
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies in Congress.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Members of Congress, including some Republicans, are starting to grow weary of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s seemingly endless parade of scandals.

Recently, Pruitt’s alleged abuses of power have involved Chick-fil-A franchises, a secondhand mattress from a Trump hotel, and, per the latest reports, a particular brand of lotion that’s apparently a Ritz-Carlton special.

According to a Washington Post report from Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey, and Brady Dennis, Pruitt once tasked members of his security detail with driving him to various Ritz-Carlton locations in a quest to track down this seemingly elusive lotion.

This development is only the latest in a string of scandals that have embroiled the Trump official, who’s been accused of misusing resources and directing staffers to complete routine and sometimes strange errands. He’s also come under fire for accepting a very cheap rent deal from a lobbyist.

As these allegations have piled up, Pruitt has incurred the annoyance of congressional lawmakers: “It’s wrong. The appearance of impropriety matters. The waste of taxpayer money matters,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) told reporters on the Hill on Thursday. “If you can’t use good judgment and put taxpayers first, it’s time to find another line of work.”

“We’re talking about mattresses, and chicken sandwiches, and this other stuff, and it’s a direct result of Mr. Pruitt’s misbehavior,” he added.

A host of other Republicans told the Washington Post that they are concerned about Pruitt’s indiscretions but defer to the administration when it comes to pressing for his resignation.

“It’s not helpful, to be sure, but the administrator serves at the pleasure of the president, and the Congress really doesn’t have a role once confirmation occurs,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate.

The Congressional Research Service wrote in a report in 2015 that Cabinet members are “likely” subject to impeachment, but that’s happened only once in American history, in 1876.

Both Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) indicated that they were losing patience with the administrator’s antics, though they didn’t really go further than that. “There are lot of folks really questioning Administrator Pruitt’s ability to do his job and not be part of the swamp,” said Ernst.

Democrats, meanwhile, are calling for Pruitt to resign. “Scott Pruitt should immediately resign or be fired,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) wrote shortly after the Post’s lotion story was published.

Harris is among the Democrats who have signed on to a resolution from Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) pushing for Pruitt to step down. “Pruitt has completely violated the trust of the American people and the standards of his office, with a list of ethical transgressions that grows longer by the day,” Udall said in a statement. “Pruitt is administrator of the EPA, but he’s behaving like the emperor of the swamp.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) wondered whether this scandal would ultimately be the one to bring Pruitt down.

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