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Scott Pruitt delivered the press briefing. Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Two EPA administrators who served under America's last two Republican presidents criticized current EPA chief Scott Pruitt for the escalating controversies regarding his lodging and travel expenses and more.

Why it matters: The pair of administrators, Christine Todd Whitman and William Reilly, have been in the same hot seat before and know the demands and expectations of the job. Pruitt has gone on offense in the last couple of days, granting interviews to conservative media outlets and blaming liberals for waging an attack on him because they don’t like his agenda at the Environmental Protection Agency.

On Pruitt renting a room in a condo for $50 a night from a woman married to an energy lobbyist:

“I don’t know if that’s a neophyte’s problem in Washington. It seems to suggest a severe lack of sophistication to be doing that.”
— William Reilly, EPA administrator under George H. W. Bush
“It wouldn’t have happened. I can say that without question. It wouldn’t have happened. You don’t put yourself in a position that can in any way undermine the public’s trust and the impartiality of government. There’s a tone deafness here that is mind-boggling to me."
— Christine Todd Whitman, EPA administrator under George W. Bush

On Pruitt taking private or military planes for trips:

“President Bush would have fired me for taking a private plane from Washington to New York.”
— Reilly
“The only time I flew a private plane was in Alaska to Denali (a mountain).”
— Whitman

For the record: EPA spokespeople told The Washington Post that the small number of private or military planes were for rare circumstances and that he flies commercial most of the time. An agency spokesman further told Axios that Pruitt never took a private plane from Washington to New York, and that an ethics official has cleared his travel.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House voted Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

House passes annual defense bill

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted to pass the annual defense bill 363-70 on Tuesday night, authorizing nearly $770 billion in funding for defenses and national security programs.

Why it matters: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) still has to clear the Senate, but the House passage greatly increases the chances that the must-pass defense bill will move through both chambers of Congress before the end of the year.

Women politicians are under siege

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Kevin Dietsch, Stefani Reynolds, and Alex Wong/Getty Images

Women in Congress feel besieged and singled-out amid surging threats against lawmakers at all levels, with some frustrated more hasn't been done to halt the trend.

Why it matters: As record numbers of American women are being elected to public office, their growing political power is being met with death and rape threats, sexist and racist abuse and online disinformation. Collectively, it's discouraged women from running for office.

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