What’s up with Gina McCarthy’s nomination to head the EPA?

Claire Thompson, Grist

Many of Obama’s nominees have not been popular with Republicans in the Senate, but Gina McCarthy has faced a particularly tough fight. GOP senators boycotted a committee vote on her nomination two months ago, mostly because of their knee-jerk hatred of all things related to the EPA (or, as some prefer to call it, the job-killing organization of America).

McCarthy has a reputation as a tough and experienced policymaker committed to fighting climate change, whose work as Massachusetts’ top environmental advisor contributed to the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 ruling giving EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. She’s worked for Republicans as well as Democrats and collaborated constructively with industry, but that background hasn’t calmed GOP worries about what the EPA might do on climate change.

Over recent months, McCarthy repeatedly assured senators that the EPA was not working on carbon regulations for existing power plants. But then last week, Obama announced in his big climate speech that he planned to order EPA to develop just such regulations. Politico reported last week that this could further endanger McCarthy’s nomination because GOP lawmakers might accuse her of misleading them or argue that she was out of touch and incompetent (although the only people Politico quoted to support that theory were an oil-industry lobbyist and a GOP energy strategist).

But now, a week later, Politico reports that, on the contrary, a McCarthy confirmation is looking increasingly likely. Enough Republicans are philosophically opposed to filibustering presidential nominees that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, says she isn’t concerned about having to lock up 60 filibuster-proof votes in McCarthy’s favor.

Some Republican senators, like Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), find McCarthy qualified and seem likely to support her. So do some fossil-fuel-friendly Democrats, reports Politico:

“My constituents are generally very upset with the EPA and [its] overreach and [its] overregulation,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said.

“Having said that, I have honestly gotten nothing but positive comments back from the industry groups in Louisiana on Gina McCarthy herself. I mean, while the industry groups are very negative towards the EPA generally, they are very positive towards Gina McCarthy as a person … that could potentially find compromises on some of these things.”

Democratic Senate leaders plan to put McCarthy up for a vote sometime this month. As of Monday, EPA has been without a permanent administrator for 137 days, the longest period of time in its history. It’s been 119 days since McCarthy’s nomination, also a record delay.