Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee refused to show up for work Thursday morning, basically because they really don’t like the EPA.
The committee was scheduled to vote on the nomination of Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s pick to head the EPA. The vote had already been delayed three weeks to accommodate grumbling Republicans, according to committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Then, this morning, right before the scheduled committee hearing, the eight GOP members sent a letter saying they were going to boycott.
“This has nothing to do with Gina McCarthy,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who charged that the boycott has more to do with a desire to obstruct EPA’s role in climate change regulations. …
Committee ranking member David Vitter (R-La.) announced the boycott by all eight GOP members around 8:30 a.m., saying they would deny the panel a quorum because McCarthy and the EPA haven’t provided answers to the questions they’d posed.
Democrats have noted that the questions totaled more than 1,000 — what they call a record. Republicans also had five “requests” for EPA on issues such as how the agency handles outside groups’ threats of litigation — though Democrats said the GOP senators were actually asking the agency to offer major concessions in how it conducts public business. …
“As you know, all Republicans on our EPW committee have asked EPA to honor five very reasonable and basic requests in conjunction with the nomination of Gina McCarthy which focus on openness and transparency,” the GOP members wrote. “While you have allowed EPA adequate time to fully respond before any markup on the nomination, EPA has stonewalled on four of the five categories.”
John Walke sums up the Republicans’ logic at NRDC’s Switchboard blog:
[A] group of eight conservative Senators has staked their opposition to McCarthy on a mixed procedural-political syllogism that could fit on a bumper sticker: “Transparency good; EPA not transparent; therefore McCarthy bad.” …
The Republican Senators’ demands are less about transparency than wrapping anti-health grievances and obstructionist tactics in the pleasing garb of transparency concerns.
Walke then painstakingly explains why the GOP’s demands are ridiculous.
This little episode doesn’t bode well for McCarthy’s nomination — or the health of the Senate. From Politico again:
[The GOP boycott] prompted new calls by some liberals for changing the Senate’s filibuster rules — a tacit admission that McCarthy will have trouble getting 60 votes when her nomination finally heads to the floor.
“You know why some of us are going to be in favor of reforming the rules of the Senate? It’s because of abuses like this,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said.
Boxer added, “This is outrageous. Get out of the fringe lane.”