The PJ Tatler

Senate GOPs Block EPA Nominee; Dems Cry Obstructionism

Republicans blocked the nomination of President Obama’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency today, sparking cries from Democrats that they were engaging in obstructionism.

The eight Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee — Ranking Member David Vitter (La.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Roger Wicker (Miss.), John Boozman (Ark.), and Deb Fischer (Neb.) — didn’t show up for the nomination vote of Gina McCarthy after committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) denied a request to delay the vote.

“For too long EPA has failed to deliver on the promises of transparency espoused by President Barack Obama, former Administrator Lisa Jackson, and by Gina McCarthy. Accordingly, the Republicans on the EPW Committee have asked EPA to honor five very reasonable and basic requests in conjunction with the nomination of Gina McCarthy, which focus on openness and transparency,” the GOP senators said in a statement this morning. “While Chairman Boxer has allowed EPA adequate time to fully respond before any mark-up on the nomination, EPA has stonewalled on four of the five categories.  We ask and expect that Chairman Barbara Boxer will follow the rules of the Committee and the full U.S. Senate.”

They sent Boxer a letter explaining why they were ditching. “In 2003, Democratic members of the EPW Committee chose not to attend the scheduled mark-up of Michael Leavitt as President Bush’s nominee to head the EPA, pending the EPA’s responding more fully to their requests. Then-Chairman Inhofe followed the rules cited above and scheduled an official mark-up for two weeks later.  We ask and expect that you do the same,” it said.

The senators also held a press conference to elaborate. “The new nominee to be EPA Administrator has been extremely unresponsive with the information we requested,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). “We’re not asking to amend any bedrock environmental laws.  We’re asking for access to the scientific data and reasoning behind the justification for expensive new rules and regulations that continue to cause high unemployment. We’re simply requesting that Ms. McCarthy and this Administration honor its commitment to transparency—that’s what they promised.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) called the GOP block “very sad.”

“This is obstructionism, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with Gina McCarthy. It has nothing to do with the answers she supplied this committee. It is Republican obstructionism,” he said.

“This has been a pattern on the Republican side of the aisle with obstructing President Obama’s nominations. Yesterday we saw, in one of our committees, a technical rule used to block the vote for Tom Perez to be Secretary of Labor.  This is a pattern of blocking confirmation votes for President Obama’s nominees for key cabinet positions. This is wrong,” Cardin continued. “Do you want to know why some of us are going to be in favor of reforming the rules of the Senate? It’s because of abuses like this that we see the Republicans deploying every day. We are not going to let today’s failure of the Republicans to show up at this committee block the responsibilities that we have as senators.”

“Today’s action by Senate Republicans blocking a vote on Gina McCarthy’s nomination is disappointing and destructive – paralyzing partisan gamesmanship at its worst,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “My former Connecticut colleague is well-respected in the environmental and business community for her dedication to listening and developing practical solutions to environmental challenges. She protects environmental values and polices while enhancing economic opportunity. These obstructionist tactics undermine public leadership in safeguarding our environment.”