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Quit blocking the nominees

Friday, July 12, 2013

Quit blocking the nominees

Philadelphia Inquirer: The Senate can show a modicum of civility this summer by confirming qualified nominees to a trio of important federal agencies.

Senators should stop sitting on President Obama’s March nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy joined the EPA in 2009 after many years as a state regulator.

Also in limbo is the leadership of the Department of Labor. In March, Obama nominated Thomas Perez, whose background as head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division makes him well qualified to head the department.

Finally, the appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created to help prevent another financial meltdown, has languished since last year. Cordray’s long overdue confirmation shouldn’t serve as a playbook for tormenting Perez and McCarthy.

A petty process

The nominations are being held up partly because of petty “holds” placed by individual senators. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who wants the EPA to speed up a study on a local levee project, has put a hold on McCarthy. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., on Tuesday ended his hold on Perez to protest the Justice Department’s aggressive enforcement of voting rights. Republicans have no particular objection to Cordray, but their finance-industry backers oppose his agency.

In response to Democrats’ talk of changing the Senate’s rules to move the appointments with a simple majority — a controversial maneuver known as the “nuclear option” — Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has threatened a literally nuclear option. He said Republicans would eventually regain a Senate majority and vote to finish the Yucca Mountain, Nev., nuclear waste dump that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has long opposed.

Such out-of-control pettiness should not be holding up qualified presidential appointments. The Senate should rise above this partisan bickering and move the nominations.