UPDATE: On Thursday, May 15, the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee voted along party lines to approve Gina McCarthy’s nomination (every Republican, including all four Republican Senators from the Southeast opposed McCarthy’s nomination). Up next, McCarthy’s nomination will go before the full Senate for a vote. McCarthy will likely face a tough vote in the Senate. If a Senator decides to filibuster, McCarthy will need to garner 60 votes in order to be appointed. Please visit our action alert page and call or write your Senators and urge them to support McCarthy’s appointment as EPA Administrator.
Last Thursday, moments before a scheduled vote on the confirmation of Gina McCarthy to become Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee staged a boycott. The alleged reason behind the boycott? McCarthy had not sufficiently responded five important “transparency requests.” McCarthy had, however, answered 1,079 oral and written questions in earlier confirmation hearings. Apparently, not sufficiently answering .005% of questions during a confirmation hearing is reason enough for Senate Republicans to stage a boycott. Despite both McCarthy’s exceptional background as Assistant EPA Administrator from 2009-present and as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection from 2004-2009, Republicans have decided to use any means necessary to try to roadblock McCarthy’s appointment. Luckily, for those of us concerned about public health and the health of our environment, it seems unlikely that Republicans will do more than delay McCarthy’s appointment as EPA Administrator.
Senate Democrats were outraged at the boycott last Thursday and spoke out in frustration towards their Republican counterparts. Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, had this to say: “It shows how obstructionist they are…. It shows how their pledge to do better with women voters is false. How could you have a more qualified woman than Gina McCarthy? This is outrageous.” McCarthy has a history of crafting clean air regulations that not only protect the public health but also include significant industry input – ensuring that emissions standards are low enough to protect health but reasonable enough so that industry is able to comply.
Senator Boxer has promised to schedule a second vote on McCarthy’s nomination later this week, and she has considered changing committee rules if it is the only way to push McCarthy’s nomination through. Changing committee rules, however, could give the GOP a reason to filibuster McCarthy’s nomination on the Senate floor.
Along with Ms. McCarthy’s confirmation vote, Republicans also stalled the Senate vote of another would-be Obama appointee, Energy Secretary nominee Ernest Moniz. South Carolina Senator, Lindsey Graham, stalled a full Senate vote on Moniz over Graham’s concerns about a federal program in his state which turns weapons-grade plutonium into fuel. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, however, approved the nomination of Dr. Moniz on April 18. The only senator voting against Dr. Moniz’s in committee was another Republican South Carolina Senator, Tim Scott, who pressed Dr. Moniz during an earlier hearing about the department’s decision to re-evaluate the nuclear fuel processing program in South Carolina. Graham has since lifted his procedural block on the Senate vote. A full Senate vote on Moniz’s nomination is set to take place later this week.
We support those working in the Senate to help speed up the appointment of Gina McCarthy as EPA Administrator. We look forward to the day that McCarthy begins her term as Administrator and hope that she continues to serve as a strong advocate for cleaner air and a healthier America.
For more information on Obama’s nominees, check out an earlier SACE blog on the mixed reactions from the environmental community to President Obama’s nominations for EPA Administrator; Secretary of Energy; and Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell.