Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, has been delayed, and it’s not clear when we might see movement.

No senators are publicly questioning Jackson’s qualifications, but Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) has raised concerns that Obama’s climate and energy adviser, Carol Browner, might exert too much control over the EPA. Browner’s position is a new one that doesn’t require Senate confirmation.

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Barrasso’s spokesperson tells the Washington Wire blog that the senator asked for Jackson’s name to be taken off a list of cabinet nominees slated for expedited consideration. Barrasso wants more time to review confirmation-hearing transcripts and Jackson’s written answers to questions the senator posed.

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Democrats had wanted to wrap up this confirmation swiftly, so they skipped a vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and tried to get a full Senate vote. On Thursday afternoon, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) moved on the Senate floor to unanimously confirm both Jackson and Nancy Sutley, the nominee to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, but Senate Republicans objected.

Last week, at Jackson’s confirmation hearing before the Environment and Public Works Committee, Barrasso asked, “Who will ultimately make final EPA decisions?”

“Final EPA decisions will be made by the EPA administrator,” Jackson replied. “Ms. Browner’s appointment into an office of energy and climate change does not change EPA’s statutory responsibilities and, in my mind, change EPA’s other non-statutory responsibilities to advise this body, to advise the president.”

“And if the two of you disagree on something in terms of an environmental issue, then how does that work between you and the White House?” followed Barrasso.

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“The EPA administrator is bound by law to uphold the laws that list the EPA administrator as the official to implement them,” replied Jackson. “I’m sure advisers can agree or disagree on any number of issues, and her advice and counsel is something I will certainly seek.”