Senate confirms Gina McCarthy to head EPA

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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After months of stalling, the Senate finally voted to confirm Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s pick to head up the Environmental Protection Agency.

On Thursday, the Senate voted 69 to 31 to end debate and move to a final confirmation vote. The chamber then voted to confirm McCarthy in a 59 to 40 vote, angering some Republicans who have opposed what they describe as the EPA’s “anti-coal” agenda.

“By nominating Gina McCarthy to serve at the helm of President Obama’s overreaching EPA, he has essentially promoted his lieutenant in the war on coal to be commanding general,” said Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who voted against McCarthy. “The President’s war on coal is a war on Kentucky jobs and I will fight him every step of the way.” (RELATED: ‘Ideological mercenary’: World Bank follows in Obama’s footsteps on coal)

West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin also voted against McCarthy’s nomination in protest of the Obama administration’s “war on coal.”

“I voted against Gina McCarthy to be the next Administrator of the EPA, but my fight is not with her,” Manchin said in a statement. “My fight is with President Obama and the EPA, the regulatory agency that has consistently placed unreasonable regulations and unobtainable standards on energy production, rather than focus on efforts to develop a domestic all-of-the-above energy strategy for the future.”

McCarthy’s nomination was contested for months as Republicans demanded that the EPA respond to five transparency questions put forward by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter and other GOP members of the Environment and Public Works committee.

McCarthy and the EPA were slow to answer the five questions, and Republicans boycotted the EPA nominee’s first confirmation hearing.

But last week Vitter announced that he would not block McCarthy’s confirmation vote, as the EPA agreed to four of Republican’s transparency requests.

“These are huge, significant steps forward to bringing transparency to the agency, and I see no further reason to block Gina McCarthy’s nomination, and I’ll support moving to an up-or-down vote on her nomination,” Vitter said.

The EPA agreed to re-train its more-than 17,000 employees regarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, issue new guidelines on using personal email accounts and record-keeping, and publish notices of intent to sue to bring more openness to what are called “sue and settle” lawsuits.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also announced that Republicans would not block McCarthy’s nomination in the wake of threats by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to change Senate rules on filibustering executive appointments.

However, both Vitter and McConnell voted against McCarthy’s confirmation on Thursday, along with other Republicans including Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Roy Blunt of Missouri. Vitter even took to the floor to urge a “no” vote on McCarthy.

McCarthy previously headed up the EPA’s air and radiation office, from which she oversaw the implementation and development of the some of the agency’s strictest clean air policies which have negatively impacted the coal industry.

“[In] her current position as EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, she has been responsible for overseeing some of EPA’s most unreasonable and restrictive proposals,” Manchin said. “Because of this, I do not believe she is the leader who we are looking for to make this all-of-the-above plan a reality.”

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