Gina McCarthy’s already bumpy road to becoming Environmental Protection Agency administrator took another detour Thursday morning when Senate Republicans boycotted a committee vote on her nomination, blocking it for now.
Her nomination is the latest bitter partisan battle over President Obama’s second-term Cabinet picks.
Republicans argued that Ms. McCarthy, already a top official at the EPA, hasn’t provided necessary information nor answers to outstanding questions. By boycotting Thursday’s vote, Republican members of the Environment and Public Works Committee denied the panel a quorum and kept Ms. McCarthy’s appointment from advancing to the full Senate.
Democrats responded in anger and skewered their Republican counterparts, with Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat and the panel chairman, calling the move “outrageous” and Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon saying it’s “an embarrassing dereliction of public duty.”
“It shows how obstructionist they are,” Mrs. Boxer said of Republicans. “It shows how their pledge to do better with women voters is false. How could you have a more qualified woman than Gina McCarthy? This is outrageous.”
Ms. McCarthy is one of two top nominees Republicans are bottling up in committee with parliamentary tactics. Earlier this week they also blocked action on Thomas E. Perez, a top Justice Department official whom Mr. Obama now wants to head the Labor Department.
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The White House said it would fight to push through both nominees and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed they will both get floor votes.
“My Republican colleagues can try every trick in the book,” he said. “I assure you Mr. Perez will have his day in the Senate. I assure you Ms. McCarthy will have her day in the Senate.”
Republicans said their objections to Ms. McCarthy, who heads the EPA’s air and radiation office, stem from the agency’s problems with transparency.
“For too long EPA has failed to deliver on the promises of transparency espoused by President Barack Obama, former Administrator Lisa Jackson and by Gina McCarthy,” the Republican members of the committee said in a statement announcing they would boycott.
A prime example of those concerns is the secondary email account used by former agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. The account, under the name “Richard Windsor,” was used for official EPA business. Republicans have questioned whether it was created to shield communications from open-records requests.
Also, one regional administrator had to resign after congressional investigators found he had used a private email account to conduct government business and then lied about it.
Mrs. Boxer promised to schedule another vote on Ms. McCarthy’s nomination for the near future. The committee needs at least 10 members present to hold that vote, and while there are 10 Democrats on the panel, one of them, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, is in poor health and has been on Capitol Hill sporadically.
Mrs. Boxer said she would consider changing committee rules if that is the only way to push the nomination through. But that could give the GOP a reason to filibuster Ms. McCarthy’s nomination on the Senate floor.
Her nomination may face other roadblocks, too.
Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said Thursday he’ll continue to “hold” the nomination until the administration provides an update on a levee project in his state.