Panel poised to approve EPA nominee

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is expected on Thursday to advance the nomination of Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The panel vote on McCarthy was thwarted last week when Republicans staged a boycott, denying Democrats the quorum they needed to move McCarthy's nomination to the Senate floor.

But all of the Democrats on the committee — including Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who missed the last vote due to illness — are expected to attend Thursday's vote, giving them enough members for a quorum even if Republicans are no-shows.

Republicans have said they will attend the vote, however, and Democrats hope one or two of them will even back McCarthy's nomination.

“I think the nomination will move tomorrow. I don’t think there will be a great outpouring of support,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), a member of the committee, told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday.

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Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee boycotted last week’s committee vote because they want the EPA to hand over more information and data used in crafting regulations opposed by Republicans and industry.

McCarthy was serving as EPA's chief air quality regulator when President Obama tapped her to replace Lisa Jackson as administrator.

Luke Bolar, spokesman for committee ranking member David Vitter (R-La.), said the EPA has committed to working with Republicans on outstanding issues regarding transparency. That olive branch will be enough for Republicans to attend Thursday’s vote, he said.

But Bolar stressed that the EPA needs to follow through and address the remaining Republican concerns.

No matter the Environment and Public Works vote count, aides on both sides of the aisle expect a significant amount of “no” votes for McCarthy when her nomination gets to the floor.

Whether there’s enough support for McCarthy among Republicans to build a filibuster-proof majority is yet to be seen.

Some Democrats have floated the idea of using the “nuclear option” to prevent filibusters of presidential nominees if Republicans decide to block McCarthy or President Obama's Labor secretary nominee, Thomas Perez.

While some Democrats support the idea, others believe it would set a bad precedent, and that it could be used against them if Republicans regain the Senate.

Democrats say Republicans are objecting more to the EPA’s policies than McCarthy’s qualifications for the job. They maintain she has answered more than 1,000 questions and claim Republicans are being “obstructionist.”

The political nature of the EPA always figured to make the path to confirmation rocky for McCarthy.

Republicans oppose many of the air- and water-pollution rules rolled out under McCarthy’s watch. They say the rules are economically burdensome and that the EPA has overstepped in issuing many of them.

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