- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Democrats ended their boycott against President Bush’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, voting overwhelmingly yesterday to send the nomination of Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt to the Senate floor.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 16-2 with one abstention to allow a floor vote on the popular three-term Republican governor, who was nominated by Mr. Bush in August to replace former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

Mr. Leavitt’s nomination has been held up for weeks by Democrats, who on Oct. 1 took the unusual step of boycotting a committee hearing to prevent a quorum and a legal vote from taking place.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and the committee’s chairman, called the previous delay a “proxy fight over the Bush administration’s environmental record.”

“As I’ve said numerous times, not one member of this committee has disputed Mike Leavitt’s qualifications for this job,” Mr. Inhofe said. “We’ve heard from Democrats, senators and governors alike, that he’s someone you can work with. It’s very hard not to like Mike Leavitt.”

Six Democratic senators, however, have pledged to do all they can to block a vote on Mr. Leavitt’s nomination on the Senate floor.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, said she will continue to put a “hold” on Mr. Leavitt, accusing the nominee of offering incomplete answers to her questions. She also cited a report that the “White House modified several EPA press releases about air quality in lower Manhattan in a way that made them more reassuring than was warranted by the data available” at the World Trade Center site following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“These findings are of great concern to many New Yorkers, and I feel it is my duty to use any means at my disposal to see that they get the answers and actions they deserve,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Until I receive a satisfactory commitment from the White House, I will continue to hold Governor Leavitt.”

A “hold” is considered a good-faith parliamentary courtesy extended to senators who wish to temporarily delay a nomination vote, as opposed to a filibuster, a hard-ball political maneuver used by the minority to kill legislation or a nomination unless 60 senators elect to proceed.

A source in the office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said Republicans will be negotiating with those senators putting a hold on Mr. Leavitt.

“It’s too soon to say” when a confirmation vote on Mr. Leavitt will take place, the source said, but the Republican leadership might eventually force a vote they expect to win if the delay drags on.

The other Democrats who pledged to block a full-Senate vote are Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

Mrs. Boxer registered the lone abstention on the committee, claiming Mr. Leavitt’s written responses to additional questions were “still non-responsive and evasive.”

“Because of the lack of answers to my questions, I am not ready to vote on the nomination,” Mrs. Boxer said.

Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, was among those who boycotted the Oct. 1 confirmation vote, but he said yesterday that Mr. Leavitt “has convinced me” that he “has the potential to do this job right.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide