Wednesday, January 19, 2022

EPA Undersecretary Scott Pruitt Inevitably Draws Ire from Public

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt did not report to the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday on whether the Trump administration is giving the nation’s supply of vaccines as much time as possible before imposing new demands. He assured Congress that health organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, are “working closely together to make sure we have plenty of vaccines.”

Mr. Pruitt’s lack of communication in the hearing on global warming triggered a flurry of public criticism on social media. Some Republican members of the committee expressed annoyance with his non-response to questions about the mandates, including limits on what congressional members could see.

Mr. Pruitt did not take any questions from lawmakers in the hearing, which was called to discuss the EPA’s administration and regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. But, despite intense public scrutiny of his actions — as well as a special counsel’s review of his personal finances — he said he doesn’t intend to quit.

But even as he made that statement, he suggested there is still a lot to do in the coming months.

“I don’t want to apologize for the work that I have left to do,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of really important work that I hope will be done before I’m here too long.”

As lawmakers drilled down on the issue of vaccine mandates, Mr. Pruitt vowed that his agency will continue to give top priority to the safety of vaccines for young children.

“We don’t want to have herd immunity” in his words, meaning an increased ability for many people to stay healthy without vaccines for obvious reasons, such as being older or pregnant.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden R., Ore., asked Mr. Pruitt about a recent memo from Republican staff counsel Francisco Martin that alleged the Department of Health and Human Services was violating a ban on requiring the immunization of infants. Mr. Martin wrote that HHS was “actively considering revoking” the ban on requiring booster shots for all kids in a group that includes infants. The move would potentially “override the express authority” of the executive office of the president, Mr. Martin wrote.

But CDC officials and the CDC director, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, told the committee that the CDC issued a statement “noting strongly” that the CDC has no intention of allowing its immunization policy to be changed “in any way.” Dr. Fitzgerald told the committee that there is no “directly comparable example in any country of a country removing its requirement for booster shots at any age.”

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