E&E News' Bravender talks confirmation controversies as nominees prep for conflict

As the first week of the 115th Congress ends, lawmakers are gearing up for the start of confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump's administration. What can we expect, and how will this week's flurry of legislative activity shape the direction of the new Congress? On today's The Cutting Edge, E&E News reporter Robin Bravender previews the issues to watch during the confirmation hearings and talks about the landscape for new legislation this year.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. As the first week of the 115th Congress comes to an end, lawmakers are gearing up for confirmation hearings for President-Elect Donald Trump's administration. What can we expect, and what does the flurry of legislative activity this week mean for the year ahead? With me today is E&E News reporter Robin Bravender. Robin, thank you for joining me. How are you?

Robin Bravender: Good. How are you, Monica?

Monica Trauzzi: I'm well. Thank you. It was a contentious week on the Hill this week, and some unexpected maneuvering by lawmakers. What is the year ahead shaping up to look like?

Robin Bravender: It's going to be an exciting one. We saw some expected actions this week. Republicans have laid out their agenda. They want to repeal Obamacare. We saw some action on reining in regulations this week. We also saw some surprises. There was some Republican infighting over this Office of Congressional Ethics being weakened and then reinstated, so expecting some surprises along the road as well.

Monica Trauzzi: And looking ahead to EPA administrator nominee Scott Pruitt's confirmation hearing, what are the key things that you're going to be watching for during that hearing? Is he up to speed on all things EPA? I mean, a lot of this stuff is new to him.

Robin Bravender: He's been getting a crash course lately. He's an outsider. He's the Oklahoma attorney general who's been fighting EPA from the outside for a while, so hasn't been working inside the agency. But as for his hearings, we're expecting a lot of the same rhetoric from both sides. Republicans will use that hearing to criticize the Obama administration's policies. Democrats will likely try to use that time to criticize what Trump's planning to do on environmental policy.

Monica Trauzzi: And you recently visited Oklahoma to get the history on Pruitt. What stood out to you as you reported on his past, and how might that shape what we see coming from him if he is confirmed as administrator?

Robin Bravender: Yeah, it was interesting. I spoke to the pastor of his Baptist church in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, who told me Scott Pruitt doesn't really see things in shades of gray. He sees things more in black and white. And I spoke to a few of his former baseball teammates who said he's a really hard worker, so expecting him to stick to his guns and do everything he can to implement the Trump administration policies once he gets into office.

Monica Trauzzi: So Rex Tillerson's hearing to become secretary of State is next week. We'll also be looking ahead to Gov. Rick Perry's hearing to become head of DOE, Congressman Ryan Zinke's hearing as well for Interior. How vocal are you expecting critics in the Senate to be, and what have lawmakers sort of previewed for us already?

Robin Bravender: Of those three, Tillerson's probably the most likely to be controversial. Democrats have targeted him as one of their top targets. As for Perry, expect to see some questions for him about saying he wanted to eliminate DOE and then accidentally forgetting DOE's name. As for Zinke, he's facing some allegations of travel fraud while he was a Navy SEAL, so those will probably come up as well, but overall with the Republicans in the majority in the Senate, all of those nominees are expected to sail through.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. Going to be a lot to watch. Exciting month ahead. Thank you for joining me.

Robin Bravender: Thanks, Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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