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 McCarthyFeds make broadband push in coal country Chemical disasters: EPA plan would keep us in the dark Obama administration strengthens efficiency standards for large trucks MORE to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

GOP Sens. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderGOP Rep. Black wins primary fight GOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump Overnight Healthcare: Mysterious new Zika case | Mental health bill in doubt | Teletraining to fight opioids MORE (Tenn.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsPolitical bedfellows of 2016 may be strange but not unheard of Obama creates new national monument in Maine GOP senator considering Libertarian ticket MORE (Maine), Bob CorkerBob CorkerBolton would consider serving as Trump's secretary of State Trump struggles to land punches on Dems over ISIS GOP senator: Trump calling Obama ISIS founder 'went far too far' MORE (Tenn.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakePence earns GOP raves in first month as Trump VP GOP senator: Trump needs to offer specific apologies Reid: Dems could force Senate vote on Garland MORE (Ariz.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteMcCain, allies cheer watchdog report defending A-10 Senate Dems' campaign arm knocks GOP for Trump support Ayotte: Trump not always honest, trustworthy MORE (N.H.) and John McCainJohn McCainState officials under pressure to OK ObamaCare premium hikes McCain's primary opponent takes shot at his age McCain, allies cheer watchdog report defending A-10 MORE (Ariz.) voted for McCarthy's confirmation, while Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenator responds to criticism of daughter's EpiPen company The Hill's 12:30 Report Dem Senate candidate: Toomey 'playing politics' with guns 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 VitterFive reasons the Trump campaign is in deep trouble Obama: Louisiana flooding 'not a photo op issue’ Louisiana senator calls on FEMA to open recovery centers 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 BoxerFeds weigh whether carbon pollution should be measured in highway performance Juan Williams: Dems should not take Latinos for granted Reid faces Sanders supporters' fury at DNC 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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