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 BoxerFormer California senator prods Feinstein to consider retirement Trump decries 'defund the police' after Boxer attacked Former Sen. Barbara Boxer attacked in California MORE (D-Calif.) said the panel could not vote to send Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyInterior announces expansion of hunting and fishing rights across 2.1 million acres Time to rethink Biden's anti-American energy policies Solar could provide 40 percent of US power generation by 2035, Biden administration says 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 Bruce VitterBiden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status Bottom line Lysol, Charmin keep new consumer brand group lobbyist busy during pandemic 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 SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE (R-Ala.) told reporters Wednesday in the Capitol.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees 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 ReidDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda Justice Breyer issues warning on remaking Supreme Court: 'What goes around comes around' 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 BaucusBiden nominates Nicholas Burns as ambassador to China Cryptocurrency industry lobbies Washington for 'regulatory clarity' 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 CardinOvernight Defense & National Security: War ends, but finger pointing continues Harris presides over Senate passage of bill assisting Americans fleeing Afghanistan Senate panel votes to repeal Iraq war authorizations MORE (D-Md.) said.
Sen. Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Defense: Milley reportedly warned Trump against Iran strikes | Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer killed in Afghanistan | 70 percent of active-duty military at least partially vaccinated Biden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Senate Democrats befuddled by Joe Manchin 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.