Two Florida Republicans now joining calls for Scott Pruitt to resign

WASHINGTON ― Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) called for Scott Pruitt’s resignation Tuesday, becoming the first Republicans to demand the embattled Environmental Protection Agency administrator step down amid growing controversy over his spending and ties to lobbyists.

In a tweet, Curbelo said Pruitt’s “corruption scandals are an embarrassment,” and urged President Donald Trump to fire the nation’s top environmental regulator if he does not quit.

Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring from Congress this year, echoed Curbelo.

“When scandals and distractions overtake a public servant’s ability to function effectively, another person should fill that role,” the congresswoman said in a statement provided to HuffPost.

Curbelo is one of the most vulnerable House Republicans running for re-election this cycle ― former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won his majority-Latino district by 16 points in the 2016 election ― and he has said he’d welcome Trump’s help ahead of the 2018 midterms. Curbelo is up just five points over likely Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, according to a survey the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released this week.

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Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida)
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Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 10: Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., is interviewed in his Longworth Building office on January 10, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during his visit to US Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla) Campaign Headquarters on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Miami. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 7: Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., walks through Statuary Hall in the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Former Colombian president Alvaro Uriba, center, raises his arms with U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, left, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as Uribe addresses the mostly Colombian crowd on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 at Mondongo's Colombian Restaurant in Doral, Fla. (C.M. Guerrero/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 06: Reps. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., and Ann Wagner, R-Mo., leave a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on September 6, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Dr. Vivian Obeso, in charge of FIU's Simulation Center, from left, College of Medicine Dean John Rock, Maruchi Mendez, mother of Ramiro 'Toti' Mendez, and Congressman Carlos Curbelo watch Obeso perform a test on the 'Harvey doll' in the new Ramiro 'Toti' Mendez Cardiopulmonary Simulation Suite at FIU's College of Medicine on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. (Hector Gabino/El Nuevo Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 21: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), flanked by U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill after their weekly party conference meeting on June 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. The meeting came one day after a GOP win in the special election in Georgia as Republican Karen Handel defeated Democratic Jon Ossoff. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L) talks to reporters as Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) talks with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) following the weekly House Republican Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol October 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ryan and the GOP leadership said that tax cuts and reforms are their priority and they hope to get legislation out of the House by the Thanksgiving holiday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) poses for a picture with his daughter Sylvie while she makes a funny face during the first session of the 114th Congress in the House Chambers January 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Today Congress convened its first session of the 114th Congress with Republicans controlling both the House and Senate. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 4: Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., listens during the House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on 'State of American Schools and Workplaces: Expanding Opportunity in America's Schools and Workplaces' on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 13: Rep.-elect Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., is interviewed in the Capitol Visitor Center before a freshman orientation meeting, November 13, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 21: Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., listens during the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on 'An Examination of FEMA's Limited Role in Local Land Use Development Decisions' on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) poses for a picture with his daughter Sylvie while she makes a funny face during the first session of the 114th Congress in the House Chambers January 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Today Congress convened its first session of the 114th Congress with Republicans controlling both the House and Senate. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Curbelo, widely considered one of the GOP’s few hawkish voices on climate change, has been critical of Pruitt. In March 2017, he called Pruitt’s denial of carbon emissions’ impact on climate change “reckless,” and urged the administrator to “come to South Florida to see” firsthand the effects of sea-level rise.   

Curbelo’s comments about Pruitt, one day after the EPA unveiled the administration’s plan to roll back Obama-era vehicle emissions rules, demonstrates how quickly the latest accusations of corruption against the administrator have spun out of control.

Pruitt’s housing in Washington came under scrutiny last week after ABC News reported that he rented a room in a luxury condominium co-owned by the wife of a top gas industry lobbyist. Pruitt paid $50 per night, a sweetheart deal well below the market rate for an upscale Capitol Hill townhouse. The EPA’s Office of General Counsel quickly issued a memo endorsing the rate, but the agency’s ethics lawyer struggled to defend Pruitt’s adult daughter’s use of another room at the residence. 

Curbelo did not return a request for an interview on Tuesday afternoon.

Asked to comment on Curbelo’s remarks about Pruitt, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox sent a statement defending the administrator’s rental.  

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Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) throughout her career
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Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) throughout her career
MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 30: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) speaks to the media as she criticizes President Donald Trump's new executive order barring US entry for natives of seven Muslim-majority countries as she makes her way to her Washington, DC flight at Miami International Airport on January 30, 2017 in Miami, Florida. Ros-Lehtinen said among other things that any future executive order from President Donald Trump on any issue should comply with existing laws and regulations. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 02: Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) (L-R) join United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley as they speak to an audience following Nikki's recent travels to Honduras and Guatemala at Florida International University on March 2, 2018 in Miami, Florida. The discussion with Hispanic and Latin American community leaders touched on Latin America as well as Cuban issues. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH16: United States Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) poses for a portrait in her office in the Rayburn House Office Building on Thursday March 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, right, shakes hands with well-wishers after giving a statement regarding her retirement from Congress on May 1, 2017, in Miami, Fla. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) speaks with Reuters at her office in Miami November 10, 2010. A Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives can help stiffen President Barack Obama's policies toward hostile states like Iran, Ros-Lehtinen, the congresswoman in line to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Wednesday. To match interview USA-FOREIGN/ROS-LEHTINEN/ REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 12: From left, Nancy Perry, senior vice president for ASPCA government relations, looks on as Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., puts heart glasses on a dog at the photo booth during the ASPCA's Paws for Love Valentines Day pet adoption event in the Cannon Caucus Room on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-FL), speaks during a press conference in Miami, Florida December 18, 2014. News on Wednesday that the United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half century rippled through the 1.5-million-strong exile community in the United States, many of them lifelong opponents of communist rule. REUTERS/Javier Galeano (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) speaks at a news conference at her office in Miami, Florida August 12, 2015. At right is U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and standing behind Ros-Lehtinen is former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, brother of Mario. Ros-Lehtinen called the opening of a U.S. embassy in Cuba a "diplomatic charade rewarding the tyrannical Castro regime.", local media reported. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida answers reporters' questions during a news conference at the Presidential House in Tegucigalpa October 5, 2009. Ros-Lehtinen is visiting Honduras to support Micheletti. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas (HONDURAS POLITICS)
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (R) has a quiet word with Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen from Florida, following his meeting with a delegation of US Congressmen, February 14. The meeting comes the day after a British soldier was shot dead at a checkpoint by the IRA, and is part of the ongoing political process to try and stop Northern Ireland descending back into full scale violence. BRITAIN
Arianne Horta, (L) a survivor of the ill-fated boat smuggling operation which brought Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez to Florida looks on as Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) translates her comments to the media at a January 21 news conference in Miami. Horta, who along with her boyfriend, were the only two adults to be plucked out of the Atlantic with the 6-year-old. Horta insists that Elian should stay in the United States. CB
Delfin Gonzalez (L), the great uncle of Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez, stands next to U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) during a news conference January 7 at the home where the six-year-old has been staying for the past six weeks. Lehtinen, along with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is asking Attorney General Janet Reno to allow the family caring for the boy to take his case through the courts. Elian was rescued at sea clinging to an innertube November 25 after his mother, stepfather and 10 others died when the boat they were in sank as they attempted to reach the United States. CB/SV
MIA07:CUBA-USA-BOY:MIAMI,FLORIDA,9JAN00 - U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), (L), and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R/FL), pose for pictures with Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez (C) during Miami's annual Three Kings parade, January 9. The two, who were participating in the parade, stopped to visit with the boy. The six-year-old remains in Miami after he was served a subpoena by U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, (R-IN) to appear before the Committee on Government Reform on February 10. The action could override the Immigration and Naturalization Service's decision to send him back to his father in Cuba. Elian has been living with relatives since he was rescued at sea November 25 after clinging to an inner tube for two days. The boy's mother, stepfather and 10 others died when the boat they were in sank as they attempted to reach the United States. CB/HB
Former U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen, left, wipes away his teary eye as he talks about his son, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, who is transgender, center, as he is comforted by his wife, Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, right, during the launching of the PSA on nondiscrimination featuring their family called 'Family is Everything' on Monday, May16, 2016 in Miami, Fla. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
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“As EPA career ethics officials stated in a memo, Administrator Pruitt’s housing arrangement for both himself and family was not a gift and the lease was consistent with federal ethics regulations,” the statement said. 

The controversy comes after months of criticism over Pruitt’s spending on first-class flights and luxury hotels, including $2,600 airfare to Oklahoma, a $120,000 trip to Italy and a $40,000 visit to Morocco to promote liquefied natural gas, a questionable responsibility for an EPA administrator to take on.

Few other Republicans have publicly called on Pruitt to step down. A spokesperson for Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who also represents a district in southern Florida, did not immediately return a request for comment.

However, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who outlasted the “Bridgegate” scandal that thwarted his presidential ambitions, on Sunday said he was concerned about the ethics of Pruitt’s rental.   

“I don’t know how you survive this one, and if he has to go, it’s because he never should have been there in the first place,” Christie said on ABC News’ “This Week.”

Trump reportedly phoned Pruitt on Monday evening and told him to “keep your head up” and “keep fighting.” In a meeting with leaders of Baltic nations at the White House on Tuesday, Trump said, “I hope he’s going to be great.”

10 PHOTOS
Former Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt
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Former Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), speaks to employees of the Agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt is sworn in by Justice Samuel Alito as his wife Marilyn holds a bible during ceremony at the Executive Office in Washington, U.S., February 17, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meets with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) (L) in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Farm Bureau Vice President of Public Policy John R.H. Collison (L) meets with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) to discuss state water issues at the attorney generals office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014.

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in a meeting at his office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014. 

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

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Democrats, meanwhile, are calling on Pruitt to resign “immediately.”

“It is long past time for Scott Pruitt’s tenure to end. From cozying up to industry insiders, to wasting taxpayer dollars and breaking ethical norms, Americans cannot trust Pruitt and he should resign immediately,” the Democratic National Committee said in a statement.

The Senate confirmed Pruitt last year by a vote of 52-46. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, two vulnerable Democrats who are up for re-election this year in states Trump won in 2016, joined nearly every Republican in voting to approve Pruitt’s nomination.

Neither Manchin’s spokesperson nor Heitkamp’s spokesperson immediately responded to a request for comment about whether the senators thought Pruitt should step down.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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