The U.S. Senate voted yesterday to confirm Gale Norton as Interior secretary and Christine Todd Whitman as top dog at the U.S. EPA. The 75-24 vote to approve Norton was a significant victory for President Bush, given the fervor with which environmental groups opposed her nomination. Norton has a long history of supporting the mining, grazing, and logging industries and challenging the country’s most basic environmental laws. But in hearings before the Senate earlier this month, she toned down or disavowed some of her most extreme views from the past, such as the suggestion that property owners had a “right to pollute.” GOP lawmakers and conservative groups said yesterday that enviros had overplayed their hand in trying to defeat the nomination. Enviros, however, claimed some victory because the 24 “no” votes were the highest against any Cabinet nominee since John Tower was rejected as Defense secretary under President Bush the Elder. Whitman, who has had some modest environmental successes as New Jersey governor, was approved 99-0.

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