President Trump said Friday that he will name Andrew Wheeler the leader of the Environmental Protection Agency, after the official served in an acting capacity over the last few months.
Speaking during a Medal of Freedom ceremony, Trump congratulated Wheeler and added that Wheeler’s position “is going to be made permanent.” The announcement came as surprise.
Wheeler has served as EPA’s acting head after Scott Pruitt, former EPA administrator, resigned amid ethical scandals. He was confirmed by Senate as deputy administrator in April.
Republicans have made the case that Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist and Senate aide, would be a satisfactory candidate to replace Pruitt.
“I’ve known Andy Wheeler for a number of years,” Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado told Politico. “I think he’ll probably be there, in whatever capacity, as long as he wants to be.”
“I think [Wheeler] will be a competent acting administrator, but I don’t know what the president’s plans are in terms of nominating somebody else,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said.
However, Wheeler has faced criticism from top Democrats.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Shumer has called Wheeler “a former industry lobbyist who has worked on behalf of big polluters and climate change deniers.”
Fox News’ Sam Chamberlain and The Associated Press contributed to this report.