Washington – With the help of New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg, Gina McCarthy’s stalled nomination  to head the Environmental Protection Agency  is set  to clear a key Senate panel Thursday.

The nomination of McCarthy, who once headed Connecticut’s environmental protection agency, will be considered by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, composed of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans.

Senate rules require a quorum of at least 10 members for the panel to conduct official business. When McCarthy’s nomination was first considered last week, the panel lacked a quorum because all eight GOP members walked out and one Democrat  –Lautenberg of New Jersey –was absent because of illness. 

But Lautenberg now plans to attend McCarthy’s vote Thursday, said the senator’s press secretary, Caley Gray.

At 89, Lautenberg is the oldest member of the Senate and has announced his retirement at the end of his term. He suffers from muscle aches and weakness and his doctors have told him not to travel.

But he showed up to vote on a gun control bill last month.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., head of the Environment and Public Works committee, told reporters Tuesday she does not know if Republicans will once again boycott the nomination hearing.

“So far, they haven’t suggested that they’re going to be there, which is quite irritating,” she said. McCarthy “is probably the most qualified person ever nominated for the EPA. She’s worked for four Republican governors. She’s answered more than a thousand of their questions. And they’ve all voted for her before for other positions. It just makes no sense to me. This woman deserves a promotion.”

But the Republicans aren’t needed to move McCarthy’s nomination forward if Lautenberg shows up.

Even if McCarthy’s nomination is approved by the EPW committee Thursday,  President Obama’s pick to spearhead his climate-change agenda in a second term faces an uncertain future in the Senate, imperiled by a partisan chasm.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who led the walkout last week in the EPW committee, is likely to filibuster her nomination on the Senate floor.

Last week, Vitter said McCarthy had not answered four of five questions he put to her. That, he said, was what prompted the GOP walkout.

“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,” Vitter said in a statement.

Vitter’s request for additional information concerns McCarthy’s emails during her tenure as the EPA’s assistant administrator in charge of air quality.  He wants the emails  reviewed and those concerning EPA business be “provided unredacted to the committee.”

Jackson, the former head of the EPA, was criticized for having a secret e-mail account at the agency in the name of “Richard Windsor.”

Vitter also wanted information concerning the Clean Air Act an public notice of all lawsuits against the EPA.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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