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 Levy BoxerPolls show big bounce to Biden ahead of Super Tuesday Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday Establishment Democrats rallying behind Biden MORE (D-Calif.) said the panel could not vote to send Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyTrump signs order removing environmental review of major projects IRS proposes guidance for expanded carbon capture tax credit Overnight Energy: EPA weakens power plant pollution rule | DOJ lets companies skip paying penalties during pandemic | Trump eyes plan to pay companies to keep crude in the ground 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.

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“We have to get Sen. Lautenberg here,” Boxer said, adding that she would speak with committee ranking member Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBottom line Bottom line The biggest political upsets of the decade 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 SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMcCabe, Rosenstein spar over Russia probe Rosenstein takes fire from Republicans in heated testimony Rosenstein defends Mueller appointment, role on surveillance warrants MORE (R-Ala.) told reporters Wednesday in the Capitol.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump vows to campaign against Murkowski after senator's criticism Senate advances conservation fund bill, House introduces companion Paul clashes with Booker, Harris over anti-lynching bill 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 Mason ReidMurkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump Cortez Masto says she's not interested in being Biden VP Nevada congressman admits to affair after relationship divulged on podcast 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 Sieben BaucusBottom line The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Bottom line 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 CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOn The Money: GOP turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks | Millions of Americans frustrated by delayed unemployment checks | Senate votes to give coronavirus relief program more flexibility GOP senator blocks bill giving flexibility to small-business loans but says deal near With capital, communities of color can lead our economic revival MORE (D-Md.) said.

Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallPark Police asked to defend rationale behind clearing protesters The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden on the cusp of formally grasping the Democratic nomination Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez defeats Valerie Plame in New Mexico primary 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.