President Obama on Monday announced nominees for three administration posts likely to be in the thick of the environmental and budget wars of his second term.
In a statement in the White House’s East Room, Mr. Obama announced the nominations of Wal-mart’s Sylvia Matthews Burwell to head the Office of Management and Budget and the long-expected nominations of Gina McCarthy to become the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Ernest Moniz to take over the Energy Department.
Ms. McCarthy heads the EPA’s office dealing with air quality and radiation issues and has been leading the push for stricter greenhouse-gas regulations for vehicles and power plants.
Arguing that no one could fill outgoing EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s shoes better than Ms. McCarthy, Mr. Obama said she has spent the past few years focused on “practical, effective ways to keep our air clean” and has earned a reputation as a “straight shooter who welcomes different points of view.”
On a more personal note, Mr. Obama noted that Ms. McCarthy is from Boston and “one of her proudest moments was yelling, ‘Play ball!’ at Fenway Park.
Mr. Moniz, who was an undersecretary of energy during the Clinton administration, is a MIT physicist who serves as the director of the university’s Energy Initiative, which brings together representatives from the oil and gas industry and academics to consider news ways to tackle the country’s energy issues. The institute has received funding from private energy giants BP, Shell and Aramco, and those industry ties made him a dark-horse candidate for the slot. Some environmental groups already are opposing him, Politico reported.
COVERAGE: Energy & Environment
In announcing the nomination Monday, Mr. Obama stressed that Mr. Moniz “knows we can produce new energy and create jobs while still taking care of our planet.”
Mr. Obama also said that combating climate change was “one of his highest priorities” and both nominees would “make sure we are investing in American energy … and doing everything we can to combat climate change.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Burwell would lead the Office of Management and Budget as the administration grapples with congressional Republicans over deficit reduction and debt limits.
Ms. Burwell previously served as OMB’s deputy director in the Clinton administration and as chief of staff to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. She runs the Wal-mart Foundation, the retailer’s philanthropic wing, a position she took after leading the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program.
Mr. Obama said Ms. Burwell not only knows “how to make the numbers add up,” but understands what it takes to “reignite the true engine of this economy … and that’s a strong and growing middle class.”
She would replace acting OMB Director Jeffrey Zients.
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The White House is late in submitting its annual budget to Congress for the fourth year out of five. It’s expected to send a spending plan to Congress on March 25, having missed the statutory deadline of Feb. 4.
Ms. Burwell also will take the helm of OMB as the administration is trying to negotiate with Congress on a solution to the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that took effect on Friday.
Wal-mart President Mike Duke called Ms. Burwell a strong leader with a “clear vision for making big things happen.”
“She understands business and the role that business, government and civil society must play to build a strong economy that provides opportunity and strengthens communities across the country,” Mr. Duke said in a statement.
The nomination would give Mr. Obama a defense against criticism from the left that he has appointed a roster of white men to key administration posts early in his second term.