STATE OF PLAY: The path forward for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominee Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyEPA chief: ‘Help is on the way’ for farmers Trump moves to kill Obama water rule Obama EPA chief: Pruitt must uphold ‘law and science’ MORE hit a snag Thursday — and could hit a few more in the coming weeks.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Democrats couldn’t get quorum for a vote after Republicans boycotted the hearing. Two Democrats were absent, most notably Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), whose health has kept him away from the Capitol recently.
“I think everything’s on the table,” Sen. John BoozmanJohn BoozmanSenate Republicans eyeing alternative tax reform plan Lawmakers fundraise amid rising town hall pressure A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (R-Ark.) told reporters Wednesday in the Capitol.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: Trump budget ‘must be defeated’ The Hill's 12:30 Report Sanders will 'absolutely' work with Trump to lower prescription drug costs MORE (I-Vt.) said during Thursday’s hearing that he doesn’t believe Democrats can muster the 60 votes to surmount a filibuster.
Democrats appear flustered — and a bit puzzled as to what Republicans hope to achieve.
"I really don’t understand their view, other than being an obstructionist," Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinDemocrats step up calls that Russian hack was act of war Making water infrastructure a priority Senators introduce new Iran sanctions MORE (D-Md.) told reporters Thursday.
He added that while using a filibuster on a Cabinet-level position would be “unprecedented ... it doesn’t mean that they (Republicans) won’t.”
"Let's be reasonable," Sen. Tom CarperTom CarperPath to 60 narrows for Trump pick Overnight Finance: Trump stock slump | GOP looks to tax bill for lifeline | Trump repeals 'blacklisting rule' | Dem wants ethics probe into Treasury secretary The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Del.) told reporters, adding, "Elections have consequences. I think President Obama has the right to nominate his team."
On a potential timeline for moving McCarthy's nomination, Environment and Public Works ranking member Sen. David VitterDavid VitterFormer GOP rep joins K Street lobbying firm Capitol Counsel Lobbying World Mercury brings on former Sen. Vitter, two others MORE (R-La.) said, "That is completely up to EPA."
Vitter made the comments at a Thursday press conference explaining the Republican Environment and Public Works members' boycott.
Vitter explained that the GOP members want the agency to hand over more information about the data they use to craft regulations that Republicans and industry oppose.
Sen. John BarrassoJohn BarrassoHow 'Big Pharma' stifles pharmaceutical innovation Making water infrastructure a priority Overnight Energy: Trump's Keystone XL approval coming soon MORE (R-Wyo.), a committee member who opposes McCarthy's nomination, issued a veiled threat to block the nomination indefinitely.
"The acting administrator of the EPA, Bob Perciasepe, is more than capable of managing the agency until a nominee is confirmed. ... He knows what he's doing there, and I think we should be absolutely willing to wait," Barrasso said.
But before worrying about a potential filibuster, Democrats first need to get McCarthy to the floor.
Environment and Public Works 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 during Thursday’s hearing that she would look into changing committee rules to hold a vote to advance McCarthy.
Current rules require members to vote in person. If Republicans continue to boycott, that means Democrats need to get Lautenberg into the hearing room for quorum.
Caley Gray, a spokesman for Lautenberg, said in a statement that Lautenberg “will certainly be there if Republicans force” a party-line vote, which Boxer said she wanted to avoid.
Another option is for Boxer and other Democrats to try to convince a Republican to attend the vote.
Carper said that’s his plan, hinting that he thought a vote could come next week. He said he would meet with Republican counterparts to discuss the issues they have with McCarthy.
“This woman has worked for five Republican governors ... it’s not like she’s some crazy person who could never get confirmed,” Carper said, adding that the Senate confirmed McCarthy to the post she currently holds.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out these stories that ran on E2-Wire Thursday ...
— Biden defends Obama's climate change record
— Obama officials roll out climate and health data tool
— White House: GOP displaying 'historic level of obstructionism' with EPA vote boycott
— Sen. Graham hints at possible compromise on DOE hold
— Democrat hits colleague for saying ‘God won’t allow us to ruin our planet’
— Obama-backed natural-gas van company shuts down
— GOP boycott thwarts EPA vote
— GOP to boycott EPA nominee vote
House Energy and Commerce leaders push gas pipeline bill
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) is floating new legislation to speed up permitting of natural-gas pipeline projects.
The measure has a Democratic co-sponsor (Utah’s Jim MathesonJim MathesonWork begins on T infrastructure plan New president, new Congress, new opportunity First black GOP woman in Congress wins reelection MORE) and support from the Energy and Commerce Committee’s GOP leadership — a sign it could move through the powerful panel.
“We’re looking forward, modernizing how we approve natural gas pipelines as natural gas becomes more prevalent as a source of electricity generation,” Pompeo said in a statement about the bill. “Consumers must have affordable and reliable energy choices.”
Sen. Begich to Interior: Put an Alaskan on climate change panel
Sen. Mark BegichMark BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska) is irked that the Interior Department hasn’t placed an Alaskan on its newly announced climate change advisory panel, and is asking the department to fix the “oversight.”
“We understand the Department of the Interior undertook a modest effort to generate interest in the Advisory Committee, but did not contact my office, which would have been glad to help. The failure to include any of the scores of knowledgeable Alaskans, who are experts in the impacts of climate change, in America's only Arctic state just doesn't make sense,” Begich said in a letter to Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellOvernight Energy: New push for GOP to embrace carbon tax Obama Interior chief slams Trump’s decision on Dakota Access Overnight Energy: Rough hearing for Tillerson MORE.
Jewell on Wednesday announced the advisory panel that’s comprised of people from federal agencies, state, tribal and local governments, academia, industry, green groups and elsewhere.
But Begich said that the effect of climate change on Alaska means someone from his state should be included, and says he’s ready to offer recommendations.
“Over the past 50 years, Alaska temperatures have increased nearly 4 degrees; twice the warming rate in the Lower-48 over the same period,” the letter states.
“Climate change is also opening the Arctic to new resource development, shipping and tourism opportunities,” Begich noted.
Chevron notches legal victory against US
Bloomberg reports on a lawsuit that pits Chevron Corp. against the U.S. government:
Chevron Corp. (CVX) is entitled to unspecified damages against the federal government in a contract dispute over oil deposits in California worth $37 billion, the U.S. Court of Claims ruled.
The Department of Energy “repeatedly and materially violated” two agreements governing determination of equity interests in oil and gas deposits located in the Elk Hills Reserve of California, Judge Susan Braden in Washington wrote in a 90-page ruling.
Click here for the whole story.
Follow E2 on Twitter: @E2Wire, @Ben_Geman, @zcolman