WASHINGTON - Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said in an interview Wednesday that he has requested a face-to-face meeting with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to discuss the allegations of ethical misconduct dogging him, saying that Pruitt would be "in a very awkward position not to answer to me, and to answer me truthfully," if they sat down together.
Speaking earlier in the day to conservative talk radio show host Laura Ingraham, Inhofe said that Pruitt needs to put the management problems that have come to mark his tenure behind him, otherwise one of the alternatives would be "for him to leave that job."
In an interview with The Washington Post, however, Inhofe said he was not calling on Pruitt to resign. On Wednesday, Ingraham called on the EPA administrator to quit in the wake of a Post report that he had tasked a top aide with soliciting job offers for his wife from Republican donors.
Inhofe, who is managing a defense authorization bill on the floor of the Senate, said in the interview that he wanted to ask Pruitt about his spending and management decisions, which have been extensively covered in the press this year. "I'm keeping my powder dry until I talk to him, which would be Monday at the very latest," the senator said.
An early backer of Pruitt's, Inhofe noted in his interview with Ingraham that EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who was recently confirmed by the Senate, was fully qualified to carry out President Donald Trump's agenda.
"I would say this, that there's a guy behind him, Andrew Wheeler, who's really qualified, too, so you know we could, that might be a good swap." the senator said, adding that he was sending "a communication" to the agency on Wednesday to say that "we've had enough of these things, we need to get down and do the job we're elected to do."
The EPA could not be immediately reached for comment on the matter.
Inhofe is not the only senator to question the EPA administrator's spending and management practices, though two other prominent GOP critics - Sens. Charles E. Grassley and Joni Ernst, both of Iowa - have largely focused on his approach to ethanol policy. On Wednesday, Grassley remarked at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, "Pruitt is ill-serving the president."
Inhofe's remarks came the same week that the American Future Fund, a conservative nonprofit group based in Iowa, launched a 30-second ad calling for Pruitt's resignation, describing him as a "swamp monster" who is "embarrassing President Trump."
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The Washington Post's Dino Grandoni contributed to this report.