Political notebook

Senate Republicans drop bid to stall EPA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans on Thursday dropped their efforts to stall President Obama’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and her chief antagonist in the Senate conditionally promised to help her avoid a filibuster as the confirmation battle heads to its final step.

The nomination of Gina McCarthy was approved by the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works by a party-line vote of 10-8, with all Democrats favoring her and Republicans voting against her. The nomination now goes to the full Senate.

McCarthy’s prospects for heading the agency may have received the biggest boost after Senator David Vitter, the Louisiana Republican who had been her biggest antagonist, dropped his threat to block her nomination on the Senate floor.


Last week, Republicans, led by Vitter, the committee’s ranking member, staged a walkout to deny her the presence of the minority party, which is required in most instances in order for a nominee to be approved by the committee.

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But Vitter — notwithstanding his vote Thursday against her nomination — pledged to see that McCarthy is approved by the Senate without a filibuster block or a 60-vote requirement on the condition that the EPA make progress on five transparency requests he sent to the agency this week.

“As of last night, there has been significant progress,” he said of his dealings with EPA.

However, the threat of a Republican filibuster in the Senate has not vanished.

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt has said he will block her nomination in the Senate over a controversial flood control program in his state that has been held up by the EPA for review.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said McCarthy “would continue to foster this administration’s radical environmental and anticoal jobs agenda.”

Republican efforts to stall McCarthy’s nomination had focused on the EPA’s policies under the Obama administration rather than on McCarthy herself. Vitter alone sent 653 questions to McCarthy. All together McCarthy received 1,120 questions — which Democrats believe set a new record for Cabinet-level nominees.



Obama urges Republicans to fund security at US missions

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Thursday tried to turn the tables on Republicans who have criticized his administration’s response to last year’s deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, calling on lawmakers to approve his request to hike diplomatic security funds.

Obama’s call was the second step in as many days designed to fight GOP charges his administration misled Americas about the circumstances of the attack and played down the terrorist strike that killed four Americans amid the presidential race. Obama has angrily rejected those claims and now is seeking to turn the debate toward improving security.


‘‘I want to say to members of Congress in both parties, we need to come together and truly honor the sacrifice of those four courageous Americans and better secure our diplomatic posts around the world,’’ Obama said at a news conference. ‘‘That’s how we learn the lessons of Benghazi.’’


Senate panel endorses 3 federal court nominees

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday OK’d three of President Obama’s judicial nominees, including one for an influential appeals court, for a full Senate vote.

Senators voted 18-0 to move forward with nomination of Sri Srinivasan to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, considered the most important court in the nation after the Supreme Court.

The panel also backed Raymond Chen to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and Jennifer Dorsey to a district court in Nevada.