GOP to boycott EPA nominee vote

Republicans plan to boycott a scheduled panel confirmation vote Thursday for President Obama’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's eight GOP members allege Obama nominee Gina McCarthy hasn’t answered their many questions fully, and say their absence Thursday will prevent a quorum under Senate and committee rules.

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“We do not ask or expect that you will agree with this decision. We do ask and expect that you will follow the rules of the Committee and the full U.S. Senate,” the Republicans led by ranking member David Vitter (R-La.) told Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the committee's chairwoman, in a letter Thursday.

Boxer’s office did not comment Thursday morning when asked if she agrees with the GOP’s interpretation of the rules or whether the vote would proceed.

Republicans are citing a Senate rule that requires a majority of a committee to be physically present to take action, which will likely deny Democrats a quorum.

Committee member Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has been an infrequent presence on Capitol Hill of late due to health concerns.

Republicans are also citing a committee rule that requires two members of the minority party to be present for certain actions. Here’s the short rule:

BUSINESS MEETINGS: At committee business meetings, and for
 the purpose of approving the issuance of a subpoena or approving
 a committee resolution, one third of the members of the committee, 
at least two of whom are members of the minority party, constitute
 a quorum, except as provided in subsection (d).

However, the “subsection (d)” referred to in the rule states that, “No measure or matter may be reported to the Senate by the committee unless a majority of committee members cast votes in person,” suggesting that perhaps Democrats could proceed with the vote if they were all there.

—This post was updated at 9:39 a.m.