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Gina McCarthy, EPA
Republicans will support Gina McCarthy if she changes
her middle name to "Yes, anything you say."
Last Thursday, all eight Republicans on the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee threw a tantrum and refused to show up to vote on the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency. This Thursday, they showed up so they could vote against her. Along partisan lines, the committee cleared her 10-to-8 for consideration by the full Senate. Despite her bipartisan credentials, she could face trouble when the debate begins there. There's slim-to-nil chance she could get the needed 60 votes if Republicans try to filibuster her nomination.

That won't happen, according to the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana—who has been leading the charge against her—if she answers a few more questions satisfactorily. It's not a stretch to say she's been pummeled with questions, 1,079 of them altogether, and she has answered them all.

But there remain three sticking points. Which is no surprise given that many Republicans would like to see the EPA dealt with the way the Romans dealt with Carthage, leaving not one of its bricks atop another and then salting the ground they stood on. If they can get her and the agency to say no on any of those questions, they'll have what they consider justification for blocking her confirmation.

Vitter and other Senate Republicans claim their remaining concerns about McCarthy have nothing to do with decisions she has made in her post as EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation but rather with agency transparency. Malarkey. The crux of the matter is ideology centered on what the likes of Mitch McConnell call "job-killing regulations." You can find out what the Republicans' ridiculous, industry-pushed complaints are below the fold.

Vitter still counts five outstanding questions even though two are moot, having been answered in ways that fully meet Republican concerns or at least did so when they were first asked. Moving the goalposts is not exactly unheard of in GOP dealings in such affairs. Remaining at issue are three matters that the agency is very unlikely to agree on:

• Republicans want the EPA to adopt an industry-generated version of "whole economy" cost-benefit analysis for any new regulations. John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council points out that this approach is not peer-reviewed, would ignore various health and environmental factors and is favored by industry precisely because it would lead to industry-preferred outcomes.

• Republicans want to see data from air pollution studies of the past 20 years "regarding the health impacts of particulate matter (or soot) pollution." The problem is that these data include medical information that could identify individual patients who have been part of these studies.

• Republicans want non-party “intervenors” in lawsuits to be allowed to participate in  settlement negotiations. As Walke says, this "means industries that pollute illegally would be guaranteed a right to try to limit the response to their own illegal activities."

Conceding that much progress had been made, Vitter on Thursday said:

Should major additional progress be made in all of the five categories over the next two weeks, I will strongly support handling the McCarthy nomination on the
Senate floor without a cloture vote or any 60-vote threshold. Should all of our requests in the five categories be granted, I will support the McCarthy nomination.
Shorter version: If McCarthy and the EPA give Republicans everything they want, followed by a kowtow, they'll stop obstructing this nomination that ought to have been confirmed unanimously weeks ago.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Fri May 17, 2013 at 12:10 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and Daily Kos.

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