Vitter won’t filibuster EPA nominee

07 10, 2013 by The Advocate

U.S. Sen. David Vitter announced Tuesday that he is removing his filibuster threat on the Senate confirmation of the president’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency after Vitter said the EPA is finally complying with his transparency demands.

The nomination of Gina McCarthy, who currently heads the EPA’s air and radiation office, has been in limbo with Vitter, R-La., and other Republicans threatening to filibuster her confirmation. Vitter last week threatened to take congressional legal action against the EPA to acquire more requested information.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was threatening to change the rulemaking process in order to push more of the president’s cabinet choices through.

McCarthy could now receive an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor as soon as next week, although Vitter is still expected to vote against her.

Vitter is the ranking GOP member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and has arguably been the most vocal opponent in McCarthy’s nomination process.

Louisiana’s other senator, Mary Landrieu, D-La., said she is planning to vote in favor of McCarthy.

Vitter claimed Tuesday the EPA made “historic agreements” in having greater transparency with Congress and the public on its email records and rulemaking processes. President Barack Obama is currently pushing for stronger EPA regulations in the energy sector because of ongoing climate change concerns.

“I’ve had very productive conversations with EPA over the last several weeks, and believe the agency has taken significant steps forward on our five transparency requests,” Vitter said in his announcement. “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 Tuesday that the EPA has committed to retraining its employees on proper legal responses to public record requests and the use of federal email accounts. EPA administrators have traditionally maintained secondary, secretive email accounts for some internal communications. The EPA also has initiated the process of revealing information on the scientific data used to enact rules and regulations.

Vitter said the EPA also is launching a process to start an independent panel of economic experts to look into the economic impacts of environmental regulations. Lastly, the agency will publish online its plans for filing lawsuits on environmental matters, as well as its rulemaking petitions, according to the Louisiana senator.

McCarthy was successfully voted out of Vitter’s environment committee in May only after U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., made an appearance to cast the deciding vote just over two weeks before the ailing senator died.

One week prior, Vitter led a successful GOP boycott of the McCarthy committee vote.