April 26 (UPI) — Scott Pruitt, the United States’ top environmental officer, will spend Thursday in House hearings on Capitol Hill — at which he’s expected to face tough questioning about alleged ethics violations.
Pruitt will first testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee at 10 a.m. EDT, followed by an appearance in the House Appropriations Committee at 2 p.m. Both will be streamed live.
Both are scheduled budget hearings, but Pruitt is also expected to be grilled by lawmakers over complaints about security spending, a soundproof phone booth in his office, pay raises for staffers and accepting lodging at a lobbyist’s condominium.
Earlier this month, a federal watchdog said Pruitt’s agency broke the law when it spent $43,000 on the soundproof phone booth without first notifying Congress.
The independent Government Accountability Office said the booth qualifies as a furnishing. Under the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, the EPA is required to notify Senate and House appropriations committees in advance of any furnishing that costs taxpayers more than $5,000.
Pruitt is also accused of excessive spending on travel, staying at expensive hotels while traveling — even if they exceeded allowable federal spending limits — and telling staff to book flights on Delta Air Lines so he could accrue frequent flier mileage.
The EPA administrator has also been scrutinized over travel documents that show the EPA spent close to $90,000 to send him and his staff to Italy last summer for one day to attend the G7 environmental summit.
Other controversies attached to Pruitt include reports of a $50-per-night Capitol Hill condo lease from the wife of a prominent energy lobbyist and raises to EPA aides without White House approval.
Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, has been criticized by Democrats, and some Republicans, over the complaints.
“What I’d like to see from the administrator, frankly, is some contrition and admission that maybe he’s gone too far, if he believes that, and maybe a plan for improvement,” said Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. “If he were to offer something like that, maybe he’d be offered some grace that he currently isn’t enjoying.”
The White House said Wednesday it’s evaluating the concerns .
“We expect the EPA administrator to answer for them,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said Thursday’s hearings are an opportunity for Pruitt to reiterate environmental accomplishments of the Trump administration — which includes “working to repeal Obama’s Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States, providing regulatory certainty, and declaring a war on lead — all while returning to Reagan-era staffing levels.”
10 a.m.: House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing
2 p.m.: House Appropriations Committee hearing