Senate votes 59-40 to confirm McCarthy as EPA administrator

The Senate voted 59-40 on Thursday to confirm the controversial nomination of Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyConvention shows Democrats support fracking, activists on the fringe Overnight Energy: Officials close in on new global emissions deal EPA chief: US, negotiators nearing new emissions deal MORE to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

GOP Sens. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderGOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump Overnight Healthcare: Mysterious new Zika case | Mental health bill in doubt | Teletraining to fight opioids Hopes dim for mental health deal MORE (Tenn.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense The Trail 2016: Words matter Lobbyists bolting Trump convention early MORE (Maine), Bob CorkerBob CorkerTrump starts considering Cabinet Trump's secret weapon is Ivanka Senate Dems introduce Iran sanctions extension MORE (Tenn.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeVulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine GOP Sen. Flake offers Trump rare praise Booker denounces ‘lock her up' chants MORE (Ariz.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Clinton brings in the heavy hitters Kasich doesn't regret skipping convention MORE (N.H.) and John McCainJohn McCainMcCain granddaughter comes out in support of Clinton With reservations, moving toward Hillary Clinton FULL SPEECH: Hillary Clinton closes out Democratic convention MORE (Ariz.) voted for McCarthy's confirmation, while Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinChristian voters left wanting in Trump vs Clinton New Guccifer 2.0 dump highlights ‘wobbly Dems’ on Iran deal Senate Dems introduce Iran sanctions extension MORE (D-W.Va.) joined most Republicans in voting against her nomination.

“My fight is not with her, it’s with the agency and the president,” Manchin said ahead of the vote. “And the fight will continue until the EPA stops its over-regulatory rampage.”

McCarthy will formally take the reins at the EPA at a time when the Obama administration is stepping up work on controversial greenhouse gas regulations.

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The agency is crafting emissions rules for new power plants.

McCarthy will also oversee development of a more far-reaching plan: carbon rules of the nation’s existing power plants, which create about a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, largely from burning coal.

As a result of the proposed regulations, some Republicans said they wouldn’t support McCarthy, who is currently the agency’s top air quality regulator. 

“This EPA has been a job killer and has slowed economic growth,” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member David VitterDavid VitterTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense David Duke will bank on racial tensions in Louisiana Senate bid Former KKK leader David Duke running for Senate MORE (R-La.) said after the Senate voted 69-31 to end debate on her nomination. “She is not an outsider. She’s been at the very heart of many of these matters as head of the EPA’s clean air efforts. … For that reason I will vote against her nomination.”

Vitter said he wanted more transparency from the EPA on its decisionmaking process.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerReid faces Sanders supporters' fury at DNC Calif. Dem touts her 'badass' sister's Senate run The Trail 2016: One large crack in the glass ceiling MORE (D-Calif.) said shortly before the final vote that having a Senate-confirmed EPA chief to replace acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe will have a big effect. 

“I think it will have an impact on every single thing that happens,” Boxer told reporters in the Capitol. “The first may be, in my opinion, addressing the chemical explosion at West, [Texas] and also moving forward on all sorts of rules dealing with water, drinking water, clean water, also dealing with greenhouse gas emissions, methane, all that."

Democrats pointed out that McCarthy’s work on air quality has saved lives, and that she is a bipartisan choice because she formally worked for then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.). She was Romney’s undersecretary of policy at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, and deputy secretary of operations for the cross-cutting Office for Commonwealth Development that Romney created, work that included development of policies on smart growth and climate change.

Alexander voted earlier Thursday to advance McCarthy toward final confirmation, and he told reporters he would support her again during the final vote.

"She has worked for five Republican governors, one of whom was the Republican nominee for president of the United States," Alexander said, referring to Romney. "And I don't think it is likely that we are likely to get another nominee by President Obama with better Republican credentials."

Republicans agreed to hold an up-or-down vote on her nomination as part of a deal to avoid Senate rule changes limiting the minority's right to filibuster executive branch nominees.

In May, Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee boycotted her confirmation hearing. Democrats criticized Republicans for the boycott and because they submitted more than 1,000 questions for McCarthy to answer.

Boxer said this is the longest time that the EPA had been without a Senate-confirmed administrator since Lisa Jackson stepped down at the beginning of the year.

“The EPA deserves a leader and this woman, Gina McCarthy, deserves a promotion,” Boxer said.

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