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Scott Pruitt. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

A group of Midwestern Republican senators are meeting Tuesday with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to express their concerns about the agency's recent moves on ethanol, according to a spokesman for Sen. Grassley. The Iowa Republican lunched with Pruitt Monday to discuss the same issues.

Why it matters: Ethanol is one of the few energy issues that's controversial within the Republican Party, so expect this tension to wear on throughout President Trump's time in the White House. This meeting comes ahead of a November 30 deadline for EPA to issue final annual regulations as part of the federal ethanol mandate.

Behind the scenes: Pruitt has been frustrated with Grassley's aggressive intervention on the mandate, according to a senior government official with knowledge of the situation. Grassley, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee that has jurisdiction over judicial nominees and the Russian investigation, is one of the most powerful senators on Capitol Hill. Trump has made clear to Pruitt that he needs to work with Grassley to resolve their dispute over the mandate, according to the official. An EPA spokesman declined to comment on Grassley's role or Pruitt's perceived frustration.

The backstory: President Trump has supported ethanol, which comes mostly from corn and is thus important to senators from corn-rich states, like Iowa. Pruitt, in his former job as attorney general of Oklahoma, signed onto litigation opposing the federal mandate, also called the renewable fuel standard (RFS). Trump has aggressively supported the mandate and campaigned heavily on it while touring Iowa during the presidential campaign.

Gritty details: Grassley and a bipartisan group of roughly 30 senators sent a letter Monday urging Pruitt to increase the volumes of biodiesel it requires as part of the ethanol mandate, which mandates that EPA issue annual quotas for different types of biofuels. The agency in September took a rare step by proposing to reduce the levels of biodiesel and advanced biofuels the mandate would require. Grassley and other senators are also concerned about EPA's possible policy change regarding exported biofuels.

"Sen. Grassley will oppose any effort to reduce blending levels or otherwise undermine the RFS to help a handful of merchant refiners," a spokesman for Grassley said. "Those efforts are not necessary, and run contrary to the stated commitment of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt to maintain and defend the integrity of the RFS."

About that meeting: At least a half dozen GOP senators are expected to attend, including Senators Roy Blunt from Missouri and Joni Ernst of Iowa, according to spokespeople for their offices.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”

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