Norton, Whitman Skate Through Senate Approval
The Senate last week approved former Colorado Attorney General
Gale Norton to the cabinet position of Secretary of the Interior,
and tapped New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman to head up the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The Senate rendered a month's worth of public debate over Norton
moot as it eased Norton past by a 75-to-24 vote. Norton has faced
across-the-board protests from environmental groups, which have
accused her of favoring business and individual interests over
those of the environment. Republican senators and others did their
best during committee hearings a week ago to defuse the controversy
plaguing her nomination by painting the environmentalists who
opposed her as "extremists."
Environmentalist groups have also voiced their concerns about
her support for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil
and gas exploration and production. The Norton approval comes just
a week after the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
voted out her nomination by an 18-2 vote.
The more popular nomination of Whitman, who has sided with
environmentalists in opposition to new natural gas pipelines in New
Jersey, seemed to have bipartisan backing, sailing through the
Senate vote by a 99-0 vote. Sources said Whitman will soon step
down from her post as governor and report to Washington.
The only major Bush nomination still pending is that of John
Ashcroft for attorney general, which has been vigorously opposed by
women's rights groups. Even so that nomination also is expected to
be approved this week, in keeping with the tradition that a
president's picks are honored unless they are discovered to have
actually broken the laws they will be asked to uphold.
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