All eight Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee boycotted a vote on the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Thursday, preventing the panel from advancing the appointment to the Senate floor.

The Republican committee members informed Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) of the planned boycott Thursday morning. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, the top Republican on the panel, said McCarthy provided “unresponsive answers” to his party’s questions and that this was the reason for their action.

Democrats were unable to establish a quorum despite holding a two-seat advantage on the panel due to the absence of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who was ill.

Boxer was called on to schedule another vote on McCarthy’s nomination. A second committee vote “depends on [the] health of Sen. Lautenberg [and] how quickly can we get him here,” Boxer said. She said committee rules require that Lautenberg be physically present to vote.

But even if all 10 Democrats on the committee show up for a second vote on McCarthy’s nomination, committee rules require that two minority members be present to establish a quorum.

“If we have all of us present, we should [be able to] vote out the nominee,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). Democrats said a simple majority (51 votes) should be required to pass nominations on the floor. “Otherwise, no president is going to get [a] nomination through the Senate,” Boxer said.

The failure of the Republican committee members to show up for the vote is “obstructionism, pure and simple,” said Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD).

Republicans asked McCarthy to respond to 1,000 questions. “That is a record…[It] looks a little like they’re just throwing sand in the gears,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The Republicans “want pre-determined answers in favor of the oil [and gas] and coal industry. That’s not going to happen.”

“They are holding Gina McCarthy hostage to their pro-pollution philosophy,” Boxer said. The Republican committee members are “harassing and haranguing this nominee.”

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