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Two Democratic senators threaten to hold up Trump EPA nominee

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Two Democratic senators said on Wednesday they may hold up the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency nominee Susan Bodine until she explains her advisory role at the agency, which may violate federal law.

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Jeff Merkley of Oregon sent a list of questions to Bodine, Trump’s pick to head up the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance, about her current role as special counsel to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt while she waits out the confirmation process.

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Whitehouse and Merkley said by advising Pruitt on enforcement matters before being confirmed by the Senate, Bodine may be violating the Federal Vacancies Reform Act that prohibits nominees from assuming the authorities of the office before being confirmed by Congress.

“Your appointment creates the appearance, and perhaps the effect, of circumventing the Senate’s constitutional advice and consent responsibility for the position to which you have been nominated,” the Senators wrote. 

This means that subjects of EPA enforcement actions could potentially challenge the validity of these actions in court if her role in these decisions is deemed “improper,” they said.

Pruitt is the only EPA appointee to have been confirmed since Trump took office in January. Bodine is still awaiting a full Senate vote after her Senate confirmation hearing in July, while four other assistant administrator nominees are set for confirmation hearings on Sept. 20.

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Democratic lawmakers have been at odds with Pruitt since his narrow-margin confirmation in February over his close ties to industry, his doubts about human-caused climate change, planned drastic cuts of the EPA’s budget and workforce and ethics requirements for political appointees.

The senators also asked Bodine if she was involved in a recent EPA decision to enforce an Obama-era rule to regulate methane leaks from new oil and gas infrastructure on a “case by case” basis rather than fully enforcing it.

Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, chair of the Senate environment committee, said Bodine should get her full Senate vote immediately.

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“It is a shame that the critical post of the assistant administrator charged with leading enforcement at the EPA remains unfilled,” Barrasso said through a spokesman.

The EPA was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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‘I thought he was joking’: CNN’s Cuomo didn’t buy Spicer’s humble brag about being a ‘staunch Christian’

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Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo

During the Tuesday night "hand-off" between CNN's Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon, the two chuckled about former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who made his "Dancing with the Stars" debut Monday night. Spicer bragged about being a "staunch Christian," as the reason for why he won't win "Dancing with the Stars." But Cuomo chastised Spicer for trying to score votes.

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Trump adviser ties his tongue in knots trying to explain away the president’s anti-Hispanic racism

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On Monday night, President Donald Trump received heavy criticism after a rally in New Mexico in which he turned to one of his Hispanic advisers, Steve Cortes, said he "looks more like a WASP than I do," and asked him "Who do you like more, the country or the Hispanics?"

Talking with CNN's Chris Cuomo on Tuesday, Cortes was completely undeterred from going to bat for Trump against accusations of racism.

"Forget about how he put what he put to you last night. He's not the greatest wordsmith. It was a little clumsy, you recognize that, none of that matters to me," said Cuomo. "Here's what matters to me. How can the Latino community believe that he loves them when he has said so many anti-Mexican and even anti-Puerto Rican things, how can he love Latinos when she's shown such animosity?"

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Netanyahu refuses to concede after he falls short — blames media instead

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Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, refused to concede after being down in the election night polls. Like the last election, Netanyahu is claiming his own personal victory and blaming the media for all of his woes.

Senior Diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid, at Channel 13 News in Tel-Aviv, was live-tweeting the election results late Tuesday night.

https://twitter.com/barakravid/status/1174116674225758209?s=21

"Netanyahu says Israel needs a Zionist government that is committed for Israel as a Jewish state. No government can be based on support from Arab parties," Ravid said.

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