Moms came to Capitol Hill last week to attend two Congressional hearings where EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt answered lawmakers’ questions about his many wrongdoings – and was taken to task for his blatant disregard of children’s health.
Moms lined up in the early hours of the morning to get seats inside the hearing room, where we were asked to cover our Moms Clean Air Force t-shirts. One of our volunteer dads asked, “Is that even constitutional?” But we flipped our shirts inside out or buttoned up our sweaters and filed into the hearing room of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Almost 20 of us sat in the hearing room, filling about one quarter of the available seats with children, parents, grandparents, and other Moms Clean Air Force members who came out in force to show that we are watching.
The hearing was swarmed by reporters and packed with protesters, families, and others who had come to hear what the beleaguered, scandal-plagued attorney had to say for himself. Meanwhile, outside the building, protesters gathered to catalogue all the reasons Pruitt is unfit to lead the EPA.
The mood was acrimonious, aggressive, and bombastic. But Pruitt seemed unfazed by repeated calls for his removal, glibly avoiding dozens of pointed questions about his first class travel, soundproof phone booth, bulletproof office desk, mob-worthy security team, sweetheart condo rental from a fossil fuel lobbyist’s wife, and other troubling choices. His standard response was to blame his staff for the decisions, and to feign ignorance. “I don’t recall,” was the most oft-repeated phrase of the day.
Moms are certainly troubled by this avalanche of allegations. But the real scandal remains the policies that Pruitt is enacting as EPA chief. The scandal is the impact on the health of children, elders, poor families, and others whose bodies are exposed to more harmful pollution due to Pruitt’s industry-friendly decisions.
At no time was this more evident than when Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey pressed Pruitt on the failure of EPA to finalize a ban on Methylene Chloride, a fatal solvent used in paint strippers, which has been directly linked to dozens of deaths in the past few decades. Representative Pallone talked about Drew Wynne, a South Carolina small-business owner who died while refinishing the floor of his coffee business, due to exposure to Methylene Chloride. Wynne’s brother had traveled to DC to attend the hearing. What followed was this exchange:
Pallone: “Your deregulatory agenda costs lives. You have the power to finalize this ban but you haven’t done it. Do you have anything to say to these families?”
Pruitt: “Congressman, as I was trying to indicate earlier, there is a proposed ban in place that we took comment on and we are reviewing presently. There’s been no decision at this time.”
Pallone: “Obviously you have nothing to say to these families.”
The profound lack of empathy for these families was chilling. And that is more scandalous to Moms and Dads across the country than a mountain of misspent taxpayer dollars.