Barrasso’s Behind GOP’s Enviro Slowdown; Dems Decry ‘Frustrating’ Delay

January 22, 2009 7:42 a.m.
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Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairman of the Senate environment committee, just confirmed to TPMDC that Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) is the culprit behind the slowdown in confirming to of Barack Obama’s senior environmental policy nominees, Lisa Jackson and Nancy Sutley. (The Journal outs Barrasso here.)

“We’ll break it,” Boxer said of the Republican logjam. “Once we go public with it, it should go away.”

But will it go away without satisfying Barrasso’s call for a way to ensure Browner can answer to Congress as well as the president who appointed her?Leaving aside the hypocrisy of the GOP’s sudden insistence on preserving Senate input at all times (*coughJohn Boltoncough*), the delay of Jackson and Sutley effectively denies Obama a working environmental team when time is short for the U.S. to prepare for next year’s global Copenhagen conference on climate change.

One important note: Barrasso’s delay is not technically a Senate “hold.” Those can only be placed after a nominee has been approved in committee, and the environment panel has not yet held a vote on Jackson and Sutley. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), a member of the environment panel, said Democrats had attempted to clear Jackson and Sutley unanimously through the full Senate — it was that move to which Barrasso appears to have objected.

“She’s a very intelligent person,” Isakson said of Sutley, whom he had a private meeting with to discuss Georgia water issues. “I don’t really know of any objections.”

As for Browner, Isakson was more effusive. “I’ve got a long memory,” he said, and Browner “was very helpful to us” in Atlanta when the city sought a waiver from the Clean Air Act to clean up local sites of environmental contamination.

Boxer was not the only environment committee member unamused by Barrasso’s move. “If people want to vote against her, it requires a vote. It’s a little frustrating,” Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) said. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) cut to the chase: “Browner served ably within the Clinton administration … let’s get this show on the road.”

Late Update: About 10 minutes ago, Claire McCaskill (D-MO) moved on the Senate floor to unanimously confirm Jackson and Sutley. The Republican side swiftly objected. It’s on.

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