President Obama’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency was scheduled for a vote today in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. That was supposed to happen at 9:15 this morning, but was derailed by absence of the committee’s eight Republican members.
The nominee is former EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy, who has worked for both Democrats and Republicans over her career. She’s been criticized by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for fostering “an anti-coal jobs agenda,” and a recent poll showed she has the support of a small majority of small business owners.
Politico reports the committee Republicans sent a letter to committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.), saying they would block McCarthy’s nomination until their questions about the nominee are answered.
“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,” they 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.”
“Because of this, no Republican member of the committee will attend today’s markup if it is held,” they added. “We do not ask or expect that you will agree with this decision. We do ask and expect that you will follow the rules of the committee and the full U.S. Senate.”
They cite committee rules requiring at least two members of the minority party to be present and Senate rules requiring a majority of panelists to be present. Committee rules require two members of the minority to be present as well.
If all Republicans boycott, Democrats would not be able to establish a majority despite holding a two-seat advantage on the panel due to the expected absence of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).