Gina McCarthy finally got a vote.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing yesterday to vote on McCarthy’s nomination to be the next EPA Administrator. This came after a week of obstruction from the Republican members of the committee, who boycotted the scheduled vote last week.
As one of the most highly-qualified nominees to lead the Environmental Protection Agency in its history, McCarthy has understandably won plaudits from Republicans like Senator James Inhofe and energy industry titans like American Electric Power. She has been dubbed the “green quarterback” in President Obama’s administration as well as former Governor Mitt Romney’s. Indeed, McCarthy was approved by the full Senate in 2009 for her current position leading the Office of Air and Radiation by a voice vote.
Carol Browner, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, expressed hope that McCarthy would receive a similar vote before the full Senate:
I commend the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works for approving the nomination of Gina McCarthy. Not only is she a seasoned civil servant with decades of experience, she is clearly a bipartisan nominee, having worked as an environmental adviser for both Republican and Democratic governors. The Senate already confirmed her once for her current role at the EPA, and I hope they move forward expeditiously with her current confirmation so that she can continue her lifelong work of protecting children and families from air pollution and other hazards.
The ranking member of the committee, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), outlined five “requests” prior to last week’s scheduled vote, and cited dissatisfaction with EPA’s responsiveness to those five requests as the reason all committee Republicans boycotted last week’s vote. These five questions mainly involve transparency issues: two have been fully satisfied and are moot at this point. In fact, each have been answered, and the reasonable requests fulfilled.
What are the points of contention? The only things EPA will likely not do is:
- release the full data behind air pollution studies that reveal personal medical information — EPA has released the rest of the data
- adopt an industry-backed “cost-benefit” analysis for its regulations in place of several comprehensive cost-benefit analyses that take environmental and health factors into account
- give corporations and industry parties the right to join all EPA settlement talks in lawsuits against the agency for violating the law as “intervenors,” allowing industries that pollute illegally sit in on talks about the response to their own illegal activities
Requests to do any of these things are far beyond the scope of a confirmation vote. EPA and Gina McCarthy have acquiesced to all reasonable demands from Senate Republicans. Vitter essentially said so during yesterday’s hearing:
Our key focus has been these five key transparency requests … The good news is that as of last night there has been meaningful progress in terms of our five key transparency requests and that’s why we’re here today, to recognize that progress and to urge additional progress.
In response to the progress made as of last night, I’m sending a letter today to the acting administrator Bob Perciasepe and to Gina McCarthy. And I just want to read relevant parts of the letter. ‘Dear Acting Administrator Perciasepe and Assistant Administrator McCarthy … Because these steps forward were significant, we want to thank you and acknowledge progress including by moving forward with the committee markup of Gina’s nomination…. Should major additional progress be made in all of the five categories over the next two weeks, I will strongly support handling the McCarthy nomination on the senate floor without a cloture vote or any 60 vote threshold. Should all of our requests in the five categories be granted, I will support the McCarthy nomination.
Given that McCarthy and EPA have complied with all reasonable demands, Vitter’s own words would suggest that Gina McCarthy deserves an up-or-down vote without obstruction. Her qualifications, experience, and poise certainly suggest she deserves unanimous approval. The importance of the work that lies ahead of the EPA in the next four years demand a strong, qualified leader like Gina McCarthy.