GOP boycott thwarts EPA vote

Senate Democrats scrapped a vote scheduled for Thursday to advance President Obama’s pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after a GOP boycott prevented them from reaching a quorum.

With Republicans absent and a pair of Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Democrats missing, committee Chairwoman Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerAnother day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs Carly Fiorina 'certainly looking at' Virginia Senate run Top Obama adviser signs with Hollywood talent agency: report MORE (D-Calif.) said the panel could not vote to send Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyBusiness leaders must stand up and 'March for Science' on Saturday Trump isn't saving the coal industry. He's letting it compete. EPA chief: ‘Help is on the way’ for farmers MORE’s nomination to the full Senate.

“This shows how outside the mainstream they are. Shows how obstructionist they are,” Boxer said of Republicans.

“Gina McCarthy is going to become the poster child of their obstructionism.”

Boxer said it was unclear when the committee could proceed because Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) is in ill health. She said committee rules require members to be present to cast votes.

“We have to get Sen. Lautenberg here,” Boxer said, adding that she would speak with committee ranking member Sen. David VitterDavid VitterFormer senator who crafted chemicals law to lobby for chemicals industry Former GOP rep joins K Street lobbying firm Capitol Counsel Lobbying World MORE (R-La.) about changing committee rules. 

GOP lawmakers say McCarthy, who directs the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, has not answered all of their questions fully. 

"I really think it's just at this point, an unelected bureaucrat being able to define issues that involve hundreds of billions of dollars impacting the economy in a whole lot of ways — it's just become an incredibly significant part of our American government, and any nominee should undergo scrutiny,” Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsWarren builds her brand with 2020 down the road Sunday shows preview: Trump stares down 100-day mark Sanctuary City mayors fire back at DOJ over criticism MORE (R-Ala.) told reporters Wednesday in the Capitol.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellWarren builds her brand with 2020 down the road AACR’s march on Washington Poll: Dems have enthusiasm edge for 2018 MORE (R-Ky.) said Republicans would continue to seek answers from McCarthy, noting GOP lawmakers want more information on the calculations and data EPA uses to design regulations.

“It should come as no surprise that the Obama administration continues to stonewall reasonable information requests from Republicans on the EPW Committee, information that is crucial to their advice-and-consent role in this nomination," he said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidWarren builds her brand with 2020 down the road 'Tuesday Group' turncoats must use recess to regroup on ObamaCare Dem senator says his party will restore 60-vote Supreme Court filibuster MORE (D-Nev.) blasted the GOP, calling the moves to block McCarthy and Labor Department nominee Tom Perez unacceptable.

"This type of blanket, partisan obstruction used to be unheard of. Now it has become an unacceptable pattern. Republicans will use any procedural roadblock or stall tactic available to deny the President qualified nominees," Reid said Thursday on the Senate floor, according to prepared remarks.

Senate rules say a majority of committee members must be present for a vote, meaning 10 members were needed on Boxer's panel. Democrats had only eight lawmakers present, as Lautenberg and Sen. Max BaucusMax BaucusChanging of the guard at DC’s top lobby firm GOP hasn’t reached out to centrist Dem senators Five reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through MORE (D-Mont.) did not attend.

Boxer said she received word of the GOP boycott an hour before the hearing.

Republicans — as well as Lautenberg’s office — said committee rules foreclosed a vote. Those rules state at least two members of the minority party must be present.

Committee Democrats called their GOP colleagues “obstructionist,” noting McCarthy responded to more than 1,000 questions from Republicans.

“This is wrong. And you want to know why some of us are going to be in favor of reforming the rules of the Senate? Because of things like this,” Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinLawmakers talk climate for Earth Day, Science March Live coverage: March for Science rally is underway Dems outraged over Spicer's Holocaust remarks MORE (D-Md.) said.

Sen. Tom UdallTom UdallSenate Dems want Trump to release ethics waivers, visitor logs Dem senator: Congress should force White House to publish visitor logs Senate Dems offer bill to restore internet privacy rules MORE (D-N.M.) also chimed in, labeling the Republican move “outright obstructionism and abuse of the rules.”

Filling the EPA slot figured to be a tough slog for the White House. Republicans have railed against rules rolled out by the regulator that they say are economically burdensome.

Boxer said Republican opposition to some air and water pollution regulations showed that “they’re fringe.”

— This story was updated at 12:06 p.m.