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It’s been over two months since President Obama introduced Gina McCarthy, an expert on federal air quality law, as his choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Given the severity of the climate crisis and the scope of the administration’s policy options, McCarthy is arguably Obama’s “most significant” second-term nominee.

She just can’t get out of committee.

For the second time in as many days, Senate Republicans are using the rules to delay action on one of President Barack Obama’s nominations. This time, it’s Gina McCarthy, the president’s choice to become administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Senate EPW ranking member David Vitter, R-La., announced in a letter to Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., this morning that the panel’s Republican members would not be attending. GOP members of the panel met Wednesday evening in the Capitol’s Strom Thurmond Room to discuss strategy on the nomination, but they were coy with reporters after the meeting about what the plan might be. The senators deferred most questions to Vitter, and he generally does not talk to members of the media in the Capitol’s corridors.

But now, Vitter’s announced the plan, saying the EPW markup of McCarthy’s nomination should be delayed while further questions are answered.

Ah yes, the unanswered questions. In theory, this might even be a legitimate complaint – senators routinely ask important nominees a series of questions, and if they refuse to answer, it stands to reason the lawmakers will push back.

But in this case, the complaints are hard to take seriously. BuzzFeed ran an interesting report last night on the number of questions Senate Republicans have asked McCarthy as part of her confirmation process, and to appreciate how ridiculous it’s been, consider this: combine all of the questions submitted for the record by Senate Republicans for the three previous EPA directors. Then double that number. Then double that number again. It still doesn’t come close to the 1,079 questions the Senate GOP has submitted to Gina McCarthy.

What’s more, Evan McMorris-Santoro added that Vitter has asked 411 written questions, with 242 subparts. “She’s provided answers to them all, but on Monday, Vitter’s office said McCarthy had been ‘unresponsive.’”

So, when Vitter and committee Republicans boycotted this morning’s confirmation hearing because of unanswered questions, denying the committee the quorum it needs to function, it was relying on a trumped rationale. It’s almost as if GOP senators just want to interfere with the confirmation of a new EPA director, regardless of whether their reasons make sense or not.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune was not amused: “This latest attempt by Republicans in the Senate to derail progress to protect our air, our water and the health of our families is nothing short of cowardly. David Vitter and his ilk have tried everything to push the agenda of big polluters, constantly and grossly abusing the Senate rules with filibusters, holds, and delays. Now, they are simply shirking their duties to show up and legislate.”

Gina McCarthy, EPA and David Vitter

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