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The Podium

A qualified nominee for the EPA

Gina McCarthy. (Carolyn Kaster Photo/AP Photo)

Gina McCarthy. (Carolyn Kaster Photo/AP)

When I was Republican governor of Massachusetts, I had the pleasure of working with Gina McCarthy, who in March was nominated by President Obama to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. I have witnessed firsthand the qualities that make McCarthy so uniquely qualified to take on the challenge of heading the nation’s top environmental department.

McCarthy, a Boston native with the accent to prove it, would bring competence, fairness and bipartisanship to Washington, which is sorely lacking in all those traits. It’s been a tough couple of weeks in the nation’s Capitol, with high profile controversies at the IRS and other agencies resulting in top federal officials being publicly flogged and fired. It would be nice to say this was just a blip on the radar, but anyone who’s paid any attention to the national political environment over the past few years would be hard-pressed to describe Washington as anything other than broken. Voters agree: Only 15 percent Americans approve of how Congress is handling its job according to Gallup.

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However, the Senate has an immediate opportunity to strike a blow for good government and bureaucratic competence by swiftly approving McCarthy’s nomination.

During the past four years at the EPA and during McCarthy’s two decades working for Democratic and Republican governors alike, McCarthy has achieved a long list of environmental and public health accomplishments that help keep our air cleaner and our children healthier. But dig deeper into her outstanding track record and you’ll learn that her approach to policymaking is nearly as impressive as her list of successes.

McCarthy’s inclusionary and moderate approach to problem-solving has achieved important breakthroughs. She worked with the energy sector to reduce mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plants. She designed a path forward for reducing greenhouse gases by working directly with states and industries. With input from the auto industry, she helped to design new car emissions standards which will double the average fuel efficiency of new vehicles and cut carbon pollution significantly — while saving the American family thousands of dollars at the pump over the life of a vehicle.

As a former governor, I understand the need to have strong leaders in place in important positions. I don’t agree with Obama on every issue and in 2008 I served as an education adviser to his opponent, John McCain. But Obama has been elected twice and deserves to select his own team.

Amid all the bickering and obstructionism leading up to this point, not one person has made a case against the nominee that is based on her qualifications. Senate Republican were wrong to have used delay tactics to hold up her nomination and threaten a boycott of the Senate Environmental and Public Works vote, which finally happened last week in McCarthy’s favor.

While the Senate has a role in advising and vetting candidates, when everyone agrees on the qualifications and quality of the nominee there is a responsibility to move forward.

In Massachusetts, McCarthy spearheaded efforts to develop standards for carbon pollution. She has helped prove that efforts to reduce carbon pollution do not have to be a drain on our economy. Instead, they can take advantage of — and accelerate — private sector investments in cleaner, safer technologies, which help our economy grow and creates jobs. In both Massachusetts and Connecticut, McCarthy generated strong bipartisan support for plans to reduce industrial carbon pollution, in large part because she ensured that her approach would also make economic sense for those states.

Whether working for a Republican or Democrat, the makeup and approach of effective public servants such as McCarthy remains the same throughout the country. Both McCarthy’s track record of accomplishment and her collaborative, pragmatic approach to policymaking are the reason she enjoys such broad-based support. The Senate was right to approve McCarthy with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2009 and would be even wiser to do so now.

I commend Obama on his choice of such a qualified and deserving nominee. And I urge the Senate to confirm this qualified public servant without any more delay.

Jane Swift is former governor of Massachusetts.
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