Washington – A group of Republicans on Thursday boycotted a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee vote on the nomination of Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
That prevented a vote on the nomination in the panel and sets up a bitter floor fight over the nomination of McCarthy, who was Connecticut’s environmental chief during the administration of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and also once worked for Mitt Romney.
“When Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he was a big fan of Gina McCarthy—she served as one of his environmental advisors,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. “If he had won the presidency and picked her to run the EPA, would the GOP block her nomination? Absolutely not.”
The nomination is expected to eventually clear the Environment and Public Works Committee. But it is now certain to face a filibuster on the Senate floor forcing her supporters to find 60 votes to end it.
The walkout of eight Republicans on the committee vote, which prevented a quorum, was led by Sen. David Vitter, R-La.
In a letter to the EPA, Vitter and other Republicans wrote that the EPA has refused to answer its requests for information.
“As you know, all Republicans on our 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 Republicans wrote.
“While you have allowed EPA adequate time to fully respond before any markup on the nomination, EPA has stonewalled on four of the five categories.”
Vitter has questioned the science behind some of the decisions McCarthy has made as the assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.
McCarthy may have become a lightning rod because Obama wants to move on global warming and she would be in the thick of that political battle.
Environmental groups, for the most part, are supportive of the nominee.
So are Senate Democrats, including Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Blumenthal called the blocking of the vote “ disappointing and destructive – paralyzing partisan gamesmanship at its worst. “
“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,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “These obstructionist tactics undermine public leadership in safeguarding our environment.”
Connecticut’s Democratic governor, Dannel P. Malloy, criticized the stalling as an opportunity to score points against the president.
“The election is long over. It’s time for them to do their jobs. Gina McCarthy is exceptionally qualified to lead an agency that is doing critically important work. She’s been confirmed by the Senate before, she deserves to be again,” Malloy said.
If confirmed, McCarthy would replace Lisa Jackson, who stepped down in February.