WASHINGTON — The confirmation process for the nominated Environmental Protection Agency administrator moved forward Thursday on a partisan vote one week after Sen. David Vitter led a GOP boycott that temporarily stalled the vote.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved EPA nominee Gina McCarthy, who currently heads the EPA’s air and radiation office, on a party-line 10-8 vote.
Last week, the Democrats fell one vote shy of approving McCarthy on their own because of the absence of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who has only made rare appearances this year in Washington, D.C., because of lingering health issues. But Lautenberg attended Thursday to give McCarthy the last necessary vote.
While Vitter, of Louisiana and the committee’s ranking GOP member, and the other Republicans voted against McCarthy, they did not continue the boycott.
Vitter said EPA officials have finally agreed to make significant steps on answering questions and revealing information regarding what he calls the agency’s problems with “openness and transparency.”
Vitter complimented acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe for “committing to a significant step forward” on the Republicans transparency requests.
Vitter again cited a few issues regarding transparency, including alleged secretive internal email systems. Vitter also complained about slow responses to public record requests and secrecy in not disclosing scientific research used to justify proposed regulations.
“We’re asking for openness and transparency as required by law,” he said.
McCarthy still faces a potential tough fight for final Senate confirmation with an anticipated GOP filibuster that would require her to gain 60 votes, which would have to include the support of a handful of Republicans.
Vitter said that if the EPA comes through in providing all the information requested then he will attempt to fight off any filibuster attempts.
Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was less enthused though.
She criticized the “unprecedented” more than 1,000 questions that Republicans asked of McCarthy.
“Gina is tremendously qualified to lead the EPA,” Boxer said, noting that McCarthy also has worked under Republican governors in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
“She understands the importance of protecting the health and wellness of children and families.”
Boxer said Republicans are continuing the practice of “holding someone hostage” with the Senate floor filibuster threat.
She also argued that Republicans were fighting the nomination because Republicans oppose the EPA in general and its environmental regulations on industries.
Vitter also again noted that last week’s boycott was not unprecedented. In 2003, Democrats boycotted the EPA vote for President George W. Bush’s nominee, Michael Leavitt, although the Democrats relented two weeks later.
Other Republicans like Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., argued that Thursday represented positive progress.
“A path forward has been agreed to move this confirmation process to the next step, and I think that should be celebrated,” Wicker said.
“I just can’t celebrate a partisan vote,” Boxer responded. “I’m so anxious to promote this woman. I think she’s so qualified.”