David Vitter vows to block potential Romney EPA chief: Opening salvo for conservatives?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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If Mitt Romney wins the election on Tuesday, he can expect another battle to begin almost immediately: The fight to block his moderate allies from key administration positions.

Conservatives are quietly making preparations to begin lobbying for these posts to be filled by reliable conservatives. Of course, this may also entail opposing some of Romney’s first choices — a fight whose opening salvo has already begun.

Sen. David Vitter is already sending signals he would attempt to block James Connaughton — Romney’s likely choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

(This is significant; Vitter is in line to become ranking member in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.)

According to The Hill, Vitter cited “emissions limits, potential restriction of offshore drilling and green energy funding — reflect an increasingly uniform GOP energy platform that Romney also has embraced,” as concerns about Connaughton.

Vitter also said “he could not support Connaughton’s previous backing for cap-and-trade rules for various types of emissions.”

This isn’t a case of Vitter merely having a personal vendetta. Connaughton would be bitterly opposed by movement conservatives.

As Cato’s Patrick Michaels noted, while serving as George W. Bush’s chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Connaughton “was flat-out for cap-and-trade legislation (or regulation) of carbon dioxide, advocating a ‘stringent’ target.”

I’ve previously noted that conservatives worry Romney transition chief Mike Leavitt will pack a future Romney administration with moderates and personal loyalists — and Connaughton is a prime example of the kind of appointment conservatives would attempt to derail.

Of course, blocking Romney (and Leavitt’s) more moderate picks won’t prove easy. At the upper echelons of the Republican world lies an incestuous network. Consider this: Romney consultant Ron Kaufman is married to the sister of former Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card. Card was replaced as Chief of Staff by Josh Bolton — whose sister married … James Connaughton.

Did you expect George W. Bush’s revolving door to close so soon?

Matt K. Lewis