(Bloomberg) -- The third-ranking Senate Republican said Tuesday that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has to address ethics questions, which he suggested are making it difficult for the EPA chief to do his job.
“Obviously, Scott Pruitt has got some serious questions to answer,” Senator John Thune of South Dakota told reporters at the Capitol. “So we’ll see where that goes. But I think that’s being looked at, not just by the administration but also up here” in the Senate.
Thune said many members of Congress, particularly Republicans “like, on a policy level, many of the things that Administrator Pruitt is doing.” But on questions about Pruitt’s spending and travel, “obviously it’s hard to explain that away. He’s going to have to do it."
Thune’s remarks indicate a crack in support for Pruitt among Republican leaders. They come amid scrutiny of Pruitt’s unorthodox $50-per-night rental of a Capitol Hill bedroom from a lobbyist’s wife, frequent travel to his home state of Oklahoma and questionable spending decisions at the EPA.
Senator Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who until recently had been one of Pruitt’s staunchest defenders, told reporters Tuesday he had become concerned about some of the recent allegations against the administrator.
“If they are all accurate, I would be very disturbed,” Inhofe said. Asked if Pruitt should step down if the allegations are true, Inhofe said it "depends on which ones we are talking about."
Thune said the steady stream of revelations creates “a drip, drip out there, and that makes it harder to be effective in his job.”
He wouldn’t say if Pruitt should stay in his job or step down.
Democrats in Congress have been calling for Pruitt’s ouster and are likely to highlight the controversies surrounding him and other members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet as they campaign ahead of November congressional elections. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California accused the Trump administration of fostering a "culture of corruption."
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.