After nominating a civil rights opponent to be U.S. attorney general and a supporter of private Christian schools to head the Department of Education, Donald Trump has now chosen a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
The president-elect today announced the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be EPA director, which is not a Cabinet position but is considered Cabinet-level. He is “a close ally of the fossil fuel industry,” The New York Times reports, and the choice indicates a Trump administration will try to undo much of the Obama’s work to fight climate change — and possibly even do away with the EPA.
Pruitt signaled his skepticism about climate change in a column he coauthored with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange for the National Review in May, denouncing a plan by several Democratic attorneys general to investigate oil and gas companies that have disputed the idea of human-caused climate change. “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” they wrote. “That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”
Actually, an overwhelming majority of scientists believe that climate change is caused by humans — a conclusion reached by a government agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities,” says NASA’s website. “In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”
Pruitt has even sued the EPA. He joined other attorneys general in suing over its Clean Power Plan, “the principal Obama-era policy aimed at reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector,” The Washington Post reports, and in another lawsuit challenging new EPA regulations on methane emissions from oil and gas companies.
He has also joined in a multistate lawsuit over another matter — the Obama administration’s guidance on accommodating transgender students in public schools. Pruitt and 10 other attorneys general filed the suit in May. Noting that failure to protect trans students leads to bullying, Oklahomans for Equality executive director Toby Jenkins called Pruitt the “head bully.”
Further, he opposed marriage equality. In 2014 he decried the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to let stand a lower court decision striking down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage. “The states have long held primacy in determining what constitutes the definition of marriage,” he said.
Trump today also announced the nomination of World Wrestling Entertainment cofounder Linda McMahon to head the Small Business Administration. This is another Cabinet-level post. Trump touted her entrepreneurial skills in making the announcement.
“Linda is going to be a phenomenal leader and champion for small businesses and unleash America’s entrepreneurial spirit all across the country,” he said in a prepared statement.
McMahon has long done business with Trump, holding events at his properties, but he was not her first choice for president. She initially supported New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the Republican nomination, the Los Angeles Times notes. She also denounced Trump’s comments about women, calling them “deplorable,” according to CNN. But after he won the nomination, she gave $6 million to a pro-Trump super PAC.
McMahon’s record on LGBT issues is a bit murky. She unsuccessfully ran for U.S. senator from Connecticut in 2010 and 2012, as a Republican against solid LGBT allies — Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, respectively. Both times she had the endorsement of a far-right group, the Family Institute of Connecticut, ThinkProgress reports. It endorsed her because of her opposition to so-called partial birth abortion and her support for the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and allowed states to deny recognition to such marriages performed in other states.
But in a debate with Murphy in 2012, she gave a confusing answer to a question about marriage equality, which Connecticut had, thanks to a 2008 court ruling, and her original home state of North Carolina did not. “Well, I live in Connecticut and I absolutely support America’s law for same-sex marriage,” she said, according to ThinkProgress. “I wouldn’t pretend to try to impose my will or rights on others. I think everyone should have the freedom to make that choice.”
Murphy responded, “America doesn’t have a law protecting same-sex marriage; in fact it has the exact opposite. … I think the fact that Linda McMahon spent only about 20 seconds answering that question tells you that she’s not going to stand up to her party in Washington.”
McMahon later clarified that she no longer supported DOMA but couldn’t pinpoint exactly when her thinking changed. The Family Institute of Connecticut then withdrew its endorsement.
The Supreme Court in 2013 struck down the portion of DOMA concerning federal recognition, and the remainder of the law was nullified by the high court’s decision for nationwide marriage equality in 2015.
The nominations of both Pruitt and McMahon are subject to Senate confirmation.