- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today will once more consider the nomination of Mike Leavitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Considering the politics already in play, Republicans must be prepared to contend as hard as necessary to get his nomination to the floor.

By right, Mr. Leavitt’s name should already be there. He was nominated by Mr. Bush on Aug. 11, and his first hearing was scheduled for Sept. 18. That hearing was postponed at the request of Democrats. After the Sept. 23 hearing, the nomination was scheduled for a committee mark up on October 1. Yet, rather than allow his nomination to go to the floor (one which most lawmakers say would be easily approved), Democrats denied the nomination a vote and defied the democratic process by boycotting the hearing. Thus was the nomination held hostage to Democratic ambitions.

Mr. Leavitt’s fitness to serve is not in question. His decade-long tenure as governor of Utah testifies to his administrative ability. In 1999, Governing magazine proclaimed Mr. Leavitt “Public Official of the Year.” The clear skies over the Grand Canyon and the clear streams running through the state speak to his environmental stewardship.

Nor is Mr. Leavitt’s responsiveness to committee members in question. He answered 80 questions at the hearing and responded to an additional 400 posed by committee members. By comparison, his predecessor, Christine Todd Whitman, answered about 170 post-committee questions, and President Clinton’s EPA chief, Carol Browner, responded to about 100.

To counter additional boycotts, Sen. James Inhofe, the committee chairman, has wisely placed Mr. Leavitt’s nomination on the committee calendar each day on which the panel is scheduled to meet this week. Even without additional attempts by Democrats to deny the constitutional process to Mr. Leavitt, his nomination faces additional challenges once it clears the committee. Sens. Joseph Lieberman, John Kerry, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid, all Democrats, have promised to block the vote on the floor.

It’s hardly surprising that at least three of those five are seekers of the presidency. While those senators might like Mr. Leavitt, and might not even object to many of his views, they are eager to delay his nomination and deny him votes in pursuit of higher office. Republicans should be prepared to do what is necessary to make sure Mr. Leavitt gets a fair hearing on the Senate floor.

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