President-Elect Donald Trump is progressing quickly in naming his Cabinet and senior-level officials. Some names have been consensus picks while others have raised some eyebrows. The choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be the next Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is definitely one of the most provocative. The 48-year-old Pruitt has been lobbying hard, along with other attorneys general from across the nation, to roll back President Obama’s environmental restrictions.
Pruitt is, by most any definition, one of the most hardline elected statewide conservatives in the Country. As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt found himself on the front lines of the culture war opposing the Supreme Court’s recognition of marriage equality as well as Oklahoma’s attempts at limiting or reducing abortions in the state. Pruitt also brought suit against the implementation of Obamacare.
Despite Pruitt’s legal conflicts with the outgoing Administration and his hardline social conservatism, it’s apparent that Trump has chosen Pruitt for the EPA job, not because of his legal defenses of ideological conservatism, but rather for his opposition to the onerous restrictions placed on businesses by the Obama Administration’s EPA.
While campaigning, Trump made it clear that he would do everything he could to dismantle, what he saw, as restrictions on the development of business in the United States stemming from environmental restrictions. Moreover, Trump was a strong critic of the Obama Administration’s decisions related to the development of sources of oil in the United States. Trump has stated that he wants the United States to move in the direction of being self-sufficient on energy. Notably, Trump called the Obama “Clean Power Plan” a war on coal.
While the President and the Administrator of the EPA would have difficulty rolling back decades of regulations and laws without the cooperation of the Congress, there are numerous ways that Pruitt will be able to lessen the burden on American companies.
The nomination of Pruitt sends a signal to several different groups at the same time. First, Pruitt is a strong conservative and will clearly build some of Trump’s conservative bona fides with that dimension of the Republican base. Second, the nomination is a clear and direct shot at environmentalist groups who Trump sees as having put too many restrictions on business which has directly led to job loss in the country. Finally, the nomination is a clear olive branch to American businesses. A common thread through Trump’s nominees in economic and domestic positions could be summarized as Trump kicking open the door to economic growth. In nearly every position that Trump has filled related, even tangentially, to business has been designed to reassure the community and advance Trump’s vision of an economically vibrant nation.
Expect Pruitt’s nomination to ignite a firestorm and for his confirmation hearing to be brutal.