Curiouser and Curiouser: Who’s the GOPer Stalling Enviro Nominees?

January 22, 2009 11:04 a.m.
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Will the Republican senator who objects to confirming Barack Obama’s two top environmental nominees please stand up?

We’ve been looking all day at the mysterious delay in the confirmations of Lisa Jackson, nominated to lead the EPA, and Nancy Sutley, who will head the Council on Environmental Quality. Two Republican senators, John Barrasso (R-WY) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), had been making noise about the appointment of White House climate adviser Carol Browner — a forceful advocate for tackling climate change who will not require Senate confirmation.

Raising questions about Browner’s role in Obama’s environmental chain of command is certainly a clever way to presage Republican opposition to any future regulation of carbon emissions. The environment committee chairman, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), also told us she believed Barrasso was gumming up the works.

The only problem? Barrasso says his objection is all a big misunderstanding.When I talked to Barrasso outside the Senate chamber, he said he had been on an airplane when Senate Democrats first sought to unanimously confirm Jackson and Sutley earlier this week. Barrasso’s staff then objected to the move on his behalf — but once he talked to Browner this morning, the senator said, his concerns were resolved.

Barrasso told me he even plans to vote for the two nominees. But wait … his office was still putting out the earlier, anti-Browner line to the Associated Press as recently as this afternoon. What gives?

Inhofe made no bones about his objection to Browner’s appointment. “But she’s not up for confirmation,” the longtime climate change denier told me. When Jackson and Sutley told Inhofe they would act independently of Browner, the senator said he was satisfied with their answer.

All this leaves one huge question unanswered: Who was the Republican senator objecting to approving Jackson and Sutley on the Senate floor two hours ago? If Barrasso and Inhofe really are copacetic, we may just have an anonymous obstructor on our hands after all.

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