Republicans force through Trump pick to run Environmental Protection Agency

Republicans have suspended Senate committee rules to muscle through President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency toward a confirmation vote after Democrats boycotted a meeting.

It was the latest sign of political hostilities on Capitol Hill as Senate Democrats used parliamentary procedure to delay votes on some of Mr Trump's Cabinet nominees and Republicans used their slim Senate majority to advance and approve them.

The seats reserved for the 10 Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee were empty for a second consecutive day as the scheduled meeting to discuss to nomination of Scott Pruitt was brought to order.

Committee rules require that at least two members of the minority party be present for a vote to be held.

The 11 Republicans voted unanimously to suspend those rules and then voted again to advance the nomination of Mr Pruitt, the state attorney general of Oklahoma.

Committee chairman John Barrasso accused the absent Democrats of engaging in delay and obstruction.

"It is unprecedented for a minority to delay the nominee of incoming president to this extent," said Mr Barrasso, of Wyoming. "Elections have consequences."

Despite the rhetoric from the committee's Republicans, the Democrats appeared to have borrowed directly from their opponent's playbook.

In 2013, GOP members of the same committee boycotted a similar committee meeting on Gina McCarthy, President Barack Obama's then-nominee for EPA administrator.

Ms McCarthy was eventually approved by the Senate, serving in the post until Mr Trump's inauguration earlier this month.

Mr Barrasso has said that is not an "apples-to-apples" comparison since Mr Obama was not then a new, first-term president building his team.

Democratic members of the committee said this week the boycott was necessary because Mr Pruitt has refused to fully respond to requests for additional information.

"For more than a month, Mr Pruitt has not fully responded to inquiries, questions for the record or requests for information on his record and views on clean air, clean water and climate change," said Democratic Senator Ed Markey, of Massachusetts.

"Senate Democrats and the American public have a right to basic information from all of Donald Trump's nominees, including Scott Pruitt, before taking votes on them in committee or on the Senate floor."

President Trump's pick to run the White House budget office has also been approved.

The Senate budget and homeland security committees approved South Carolina Republican Congressman Mick Mulvaney for a vote by the full Senate.

The move came over the opposition of Democrats, who warn of his support for cutting rising costs of medicare and increasing the age for claiming social security benefits.

Mr Mulvaney was among the tea party lawmakers who backed a government shutdown in 2013 in an attempt to block the Affordable Care Act from taking place.

In 2011, he was among those against increasing the government's borrowing cap.

Mr Mulvaney easily sidestepped a controversy in which he failed to pay payroll taxes on a nanny he employed between 2000 and 2004.

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