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Obama Cabinet picks advance after party-line votes

May 16, 2013|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Gina McCarthy, President Obama's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, took a step closer to confirmation Thursday.
Gina McCarthy, President Obama's nominee to lead the Environmental… (Scott J. Ferrell / Getty…)

WASHINGTON – Two of President Obama’s second-term Cabinet nominees inched forward Thursday, while another was poised to win final confirmation by the Senate.

Thomas E. Perez, Obama’s choice to lead the Labor Department, and EPA nominee Gina McCarthy won party-line votes of Senate committees Thursday morning, after Republicans had employed various procedural tactics to delay progress in confirming their appointments.

It is unclear at this point how soon, if at all, the full Senate would move to confirmation votes for either nominee. A Senate leadership aide said no vote is likely until after the weeklong Memorial Day recess.

Perez’s nomination, in particular, has emerged as a focal point of Republicans.

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Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), ranking Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Perez used his current position at the Justice Department as assistant attorney general for civil rights to engage in an "extraordinary amount of wheeling and dealing" beyond his purview.

Democrats have called a Republican investigation into Perez's handling of a St. Paul housing case as a "fishing expedition."

McCarthy, currently an assistant administrator at EPA, may face a smoother path to confirmation despite earlier delays. An earlier committee vote by the Environment and Public Works Committee was postponed when Republican members boycotted the meeting.

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, the committee’s ranking Republican, said they were seeking additional emails and documentation regarding her current work at the EPA, some of which have been provided. Vitter said Thursday that he could now support a vote in the full Senate without further delays.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called the delays unnecessary and unprecedented. While she may have had similar objections to an administration choice, she said, "I never took it out on a nominee who has yet to have an opportunity to do her job. It's nonsense."

The full Senate is expected to vote Thursday afternoon to confirm Ernest Moniz as Energy secretary. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky spoke favorably of his nomination in remarks on the Senate floor.

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