Republican senators boycott vote on EPA nominee


WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans boycotted a committee vote Thursday on President Obama’s nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency, drawing accusations of obstructionism from Democrats.

Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said McCarthy had not adequately responded to their requests for information, so they didn’t show up for the scheduled vote.

They want more information on how the EPA makes decisions on new regulations, how it has used private email to conduct public business, and other transparency issues.


“We’re not asking to amend any bedrock environmental laws,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said. “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.”

But the committee’s Democrats said McCarthy had been asked more than 1,000 questions — a record number, according to them.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called inquiries from the panel’s Republicans excessive. The committee has 18 members, eight of them Republicans.

“It shows how obstructionist they are; it shows their pledge to do better with women voters is false,” Boxer, the committee chairwoman, said.

The thwarted vote came a day after Republican members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions delayed a vote on Obama’s nominee to lead the Labor Department, Thomas E. Perez.

“We call on Republicans in the Senate to stop gumming up the works when it comes to the confirmation process of nominees who are enormously qualified for the jobs that the president has asked them to fill and to get about the business of confirming them,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

Boxer said the delays reflected difficulties Republicans had conceding anything to a Democratic majority. “We just had an election, and this isn’t Mr. Romney’s Cabinet or Mr. Rick Perry’s Cabinet, this is Barack Obama’s Cabinet,” she said. “So don’t be that shocked that you may not agree with [McCarthy’s] views.”

McCarthy is the former head of the EPA’s air pollution branch.

At that post, she implemented new regulations that imposed stricter carbon emissions standards on cars and light trucks and cut the amount of mercury allowed in power plant emissions.

Republicans have said those regulations cost American workers their jobs. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called her agenda “radical.”

In a letter to Boxer, the Republican committee members said there was a precedent for their action. Democrats in 2003 boycotted President George W. Bush’s nominee to head the EPA, former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, because they wanted more information, the GOP senators wrote. At that time, the Republican leadership rescheduled a hearing two weeks later and a vote was held.

Boxer said she would review all available options, “including changing the rules of this committee,” to pass McCarthy’s nomination to the full Senate, where it could face more difficulties if Republicans insist on a 60-vote threshold.