EPA chief: Obama has our back vs. McConnell

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says she is not taking Senate Republicans’ threats to cripple her agency too seriously.

Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Critics accuse Interior's top lawyer of misleading Congress | Boaty McBoatface makes key climate change discovery | Outrage over Trump's order to trim science advisory panels Overnight Energy: Critics accuse Interior's top lawyer of misleading Congress | Boaty McBoatface makes key climate change discovery | Outrage over Trump's order to trim science advisory panels Trump's order to trim science advisory panels sparks outrage MORE thinks she has enough public support to push back any threats — and that President Obama has the EPA’s back.

“EPA has not been a partisan agency. It’s been an agency that’s done its job to protect public health and the environment,” she said Monday.

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“I do not believe the American public expects us not to do that.”

McCarthy said she recognizes that GOP control of the Senate may present “challenges” for her agency, but it won’t hurt its priorities.

McCarthy’s comments at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor came days after incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Senators reach .5B deal on Trump's emergency border request Senators reach .5B deal on Trump's emergency border request MORE (R-Ky.) promised “to go to war” with Obama over what he sees as a “war on coal” imposed by the White House and the EPA.

McConnell said annual funding bills, which must pass in order to avoid government shutdowns, are one of the best tools available for Republicans to stop the EPA’s agenda. Specifically, lawmakers can cut funding for particular initiatives or regulations.

Congress could also make large cuts to the EPA’s budget.

McCarthy said she has met with McConnell about his objections to EPA rules, but “not in recent days.”

“I certainly respect his position,” McCarthy said. “But I think the American public disagrees.”

McCarthy doubted that Obama would negotiate with Republicans in a way that weakens the EPA’s regulations.

“The president has been very clear that he supports this agency,” she said. “I feel very supported in what I am doing.”

She continued that she “very confident that the president has the best interest of EPA in mind.”

McCarthy dismissed complaints that she is waging a “war on coal” and said that economic factors are more at play.

“I would suggest to you that we’re following the way in which the energy world is actually developing, and we’re doing the things that are necessary to protect public health and the environment,” she said. “It is not specifically targeted at coal.”