The Senate last week approved former Colorado Attorney GeneralGale Norton to the cabinet position of Secretary of the Interior,and tapped New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman to head up theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Senate rendered a month’s worth of public debate over Nortonmoot as it eased Norton past by a 75-to-24 vote. Norton has facedacross-the-board protests from environmental groups, which haveaccused her of favoring business and individual interests overthose of the environment. Republican senators and others did theirbest during committee hearings a week ago to defuse the controversyplaguing her nomination by painting the environmentalists whoopposed her as “extremists.”

Environmentalist groups have also voiced their concerns abouther support for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oiland gas exploration and production. The Norton approval comes justa week after the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committeevoted out her nomination by an 18-2 vote.

The more popular nomination of Whitman, who has sided withenvironmentalists in opposition to new natural gas pipelines in NewJersey, seemed to have bipartisan backing, sailing through theSenate vote by a 99-0 vote. Sources said Whitman will soon stepdown from her post as governor and report to Washington.

The only major Bush nomination still pending is that of JohnAshcroft for attorney general, which has been vigorously opposed bywomen’s rights groups. Even so that nomination also is expected tobe approved this week, in keeping with the tradition that apresident’s picks are honored unless they are discovered to haveactually broken the laws they will be asked to uphold.

Alex Steis

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