Senate Confirms Labor, EPA Nominees

Presidential nominations have been the talk of the Senate all week. On Tuesday leaders averted a rules change that would have allowed Senators to confirm a nominee with a simple majority.

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It takes two votes in the Senate: usually a 60 vote threshold to end debate on the pick, then a majority vote on the confirmation itself.

“I am not going to block that nominee,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. She said the president has a right to his own cabinet.

Murkowski joined five other Republicans in voting to end debate on Secretary of Labor nominee Tom Perez. His nomination had been in jeopardy because some Republicans contend he did not cooperate with Congressional investigations into his work at the Justice Department where he worked as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

While Murkowski voted to end debate, she voted against the final confirmation for Perez. She also opposed the confirmation of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Senator Mark Begich, who’s running for reelection in 2014, voted to move forward with the nomination of Gina McCarthy. She’s currently at the EPA, regulating the country’s air standards. Before that, she worked as an environmental regulator for former Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Her confirmation had been uncertain because of Republican opposition to the president’s climate change goals.

“I had a good meeting with her. We’ll have our battles, guaranteed. I think she understands the importance of oil and gas exploration,” Begich said. “And we’ll make sure she doesn’t push that the wrong direction.”

McCarthy’s nomination had been in limbo since March, the longest wait for an EPA administrator ever.