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Senate Vote Said Imminent on EPA Chief

Senate Republicans appear to have tempered their opposition to the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a vote appears imminent.

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and one of McCarthy's main critics, last Tuesday said the EPA has responded to his transparency requests and that he would now support the nomination (see NGI, May 13).

"I've had very productive conversations with EPA over the last several weeks, and believe the agency has taken significant steps forward on our five transparency requests. These are huge, significant steps forward to bringing transparency to the agency, and I see no further reason to block Gina McCarthy's nomination, and I'll support moving to an up-or-down vote on her nomination."

The American Chemistry Council gave high marks to Vitter and others who worked to resolve the stalemate surrounding McCarthy's nomination.

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) Tuesday said his hold on the McCarthy nomination still remains in place. He imposed the hold in March after the EPA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to resolve disputes that are delaying a final decision on the St. John Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project (see NGI, March 11).

However, energy analyst Christi Tezak of Clearview Energy Partners LLC believes McCarthy's nomination will move through the Senate despite Blunt's hold.

"The fact that Vitter will not block cloture could indicate that a sufficient number of Republicans may be willing to vote with Senate Democrats to override Blunt's filibuster threat," she said. If Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) "can muster 60 votes to consider McCarthy's nomination, only 51 votes would be needed for her confirmation."

Reid last week set up votes to end debate on McCarthy's nomination to head the EPA, and on other nominees. "The decision to move several nominations together may point to a strategic view by Senate Democratic Party leadership that Republicans may be less likely to reject them all, and Vitter's change of heart suggests they may be right," Tezak said.

Reid has given Republicans the ultimatum of approving the nominations or losing their support to filibuster, which has angered many GOP.

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