Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) demanded on Wednesday that Environmental Protection Agency Administer Scott Pruitt hand over all details relating to his tax-payer funded travel expenses since assuming his post last year.
At issue is whether Pruitt has a permanent waiver to fly first class -- a detail on which his office has provided inconsistent responses.
“Clearly, federal regulations prohibit a blanket waiver to fly first class except to accommodate disabilities or special needs,” Mr. Gowdy wrote in a letter. “Instead, a waiver is required for each flight in order to fly first or business class when traveling on official government business.”
Pruitt's travel habits came under fire after the Washington Post published a story last week detailing $90,000 in travel expenses the EPA chief racked up in less than one month last year.
An explanation provided by Pruitt's office indicated the first-class arrangements were necessary due to security threats.
Jahan Wilcox, a spokesman for the E.P.A., initially issued a statement that said that Mr. Pruitt had a “blanket waiver” to fly first class out of concern for his security. Mr. Wilcox later amended that to say that the E.P.A. did in fact submit a waiver for each trip.
According to the General Services Administration’s regulations for travel by federal employees, “blanket authorization” of anything other than coach-fare travel is barred except for reasons related to a disability or special need, and authorization for first-class travel is given on a “trip-by-trip” basis.
Democrats have been quick to criticize Pruitt, but the issue raised bipartisan concern as well with a handful of Republicans voicing their concerns.
Mr. Gowdy asked that Mr. Pruitt’s travel information be handed over by 5 p.m. on March 6. Mr. Wilcox on Wednesday declined to comment on Mr. Gowdy’s letter, saying in an email, “We will respond to Chairman Gowdy through the proper channel.”