Senate Gridlock Breaks: McCarthy Approved at EPA, Perez at Labor

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By Glynn Wilson

Something has come over the Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Gridlock in Washington is cracking, and President Obama’s nominees are now working their way through confirmation like water through an open dam.

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Gina McCarthy

A bipartisan deal was reached this week with the Republicans to allow votes on all seven of the pending nominations. In return, Democrats shelved a plan to change the filibuster rules to make it harder for Republicans in the minority to block legislation.

In the morning on Thursday, the Senate confirmed Thomas Perez as labor secretary in a party-line vote of 54-46. He will immediately get to work pushing administration policies to revamp immigration laws and boost the minimum wage.

“Tom has lived the American dream himself and has dedicated his career to keeping it within reach for hardworking families across the country,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

In the afternoon, Gina McCarthy was finally confirmed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency by a vote of 59-40, with six Republicans joining all but one Democrat from West Virginia coal country. To get that vote required an earlier vote of 69-31 to overcome Republican objections that had bogged down McCarthy’s nomination since spring. That was nine votes more than the required 60 to halt a filibuster.

“I am pleased that today the Senate took bipartisan action to confirm Gina McCarthy,” Mr. Obama said. “With years of experience at the state and local level, (she) is a proven leader who knows how to build bipartisan support for commonsense environmental solutions that protect the health and safety of our kids while promoting economic growth. Over the past four years, I have valued Gina’s counsel and I look forward to having her in my Cabinet as we work to slow the effects of climate change and leave a cleaner environment for future generations.”

McCarthy is taking over the EPA at a time when the administration is set on working to curb greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants, goals that are ambitious for the country and the world, as well as politically and technically, especially at a time when Congress is intent on cutting the federal agency budgets.

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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