By Ari Natter
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed a cloture motion July 11 for Gina McCarthy, President Obama's nominee for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, setting up a confirmation vote that probably will occur July 16.
The move by Reid to file cloture on McCarthy as well as six other stalled nominees comes as Reid threatened to move forward with the so-called nuclear option, changing Senate rules to allow nominees to be confirmed with just 51 votes if Republicans try to block the nominations.
In addition to McCarthy, Reid also filed cloture on the nominations of Richard Cordray, Obama's nominee for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; labor secretary nominee Thomas Perez; Fred P. Hochberg to serve a second term as head of the Export-Import Bank; and three members of the National Labor Relations Board.
“We want to break gridlock and make Washington work for America,” Reid said after a closed-door meeting with the Democratic caucus. “The Senate needs to change from a place of constant constant gridlock.”
Reid's announcement came after he took to the Senate floor earlier in the day to complain that Republican obstructionism has been holding up nominees, including McCarthy, who he said was nominated more than four months ago.
“Although she has a proven track record of public service that will help her bring environmentalists and business groups together to tackle the serious environmental challenges facing our nation, her nomination lingers,” Reid said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.
“Republicans fundamentally oppose the mission of the agency she will lead: to keep the air we breathe and the water we drink safe from dangerous pollution,” Reid said.
The prospects for McCarthy appear to be favorable as Republicans focus more on opposing more controversial nominees, such as Obama recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, who Republicans argue were appointed illegally in 2011.
Speaking in opposition to the nuclear option on the Senate floor earlier in the day, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the nominations of McCarthy as well as Perez “already have enough votes to clear a 60-vote hurdle.”
McConnell's remarks followed an announcement by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, that EPA agreed to a series of measures aimed at addressing transparency concerns from Senate Republicans.
According to Vitter, EPA has agreed to retrain employees and issue guidance on proper record maintenance and use of personal email in conducting agency business following the completion of an audit by the inspector general.
Under the agreement, EPA also has begun the process of obtaining requested scientific information that should allow Senate Republicans to determine “if there is any way of independently re-analyzing the science and benefits claims for a suite of major air regulations,” Vitter said in a statement. EPA also is convening an independent panel of economic experts that will examine how the agency measures economic benefits of regulations and whether it is possible to measure the full benefits of those rulemakings.
The agency also launched two websites that will allow the tracking of notices of intent to sue and petitions for rulemaking as they are received by the agency.
Boxer called Vitter's pledge not to filibuster the McCarthy nomination “great news” and said she was “really happy.”
“She should get a huge number of votes,” Boxer told reporters. “Who could be more suited for this job?”
McCarthy was nominated by President Obama for the post of EPA administrator in March and has served as assistant EPA administrator for air and radiation since 2009.
While Reid earlier noted he had the votes necessary to proceed with the nuclear option, he agreed to a request by McConnell to have a joint caucus meeting between Senate Democrats and Republicans the evening of July 15, although he expressed doubt a compromise would be reached.
“If nothing is resolved there, which with the way things have been going today likely it won't be, we'll have a vote sometime early Tuesday morning on these nominees,” Reid said.
The Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund have launched television ads in multiple states supporting Gina McCarthy's nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at Republican senators they believe would be open to supporting the nomination.
Ads from the Sierra Club aired from July 3-15 in Arizona and from July 4-15 in Ohio, Melinda Pierce, public policy director for the Sierra Club, told BNA July 3.
The Environmental Defense Fund has extended an existing advertising campaign in New Hampshire, Maine, and Illinois, according to Keith Gaby, climate communications director for EDF.
The advertisements target Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Susan Collins (Maine), John McCain (Ariz.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), and Rob Portman (Ohio).
EPA's website that tracks petitions for rulemaking is available at http://www2.epa.gov/aboutepa/petitions-rulemaking.
EPA's website that tracks notices of intent to sue is available at http://www.epa.gov/ogc/noi.html.
The Sierra Club's ad supporting Gina McCarthy in Ohio is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxkEGez0RWI.
The Sierra Club's ad supporting Gina McCarthy in Arizona is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fh4Tb5f81Y8&feature=youtu.be.