OTHER VOICES

GOP politics of dysfunction

Gina McCarthy testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on her nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this April 11, 2013 file photo.
JOSHUA ROBERTS | REUTERS
Gina McCarthy testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on her nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this April 11, 2013 file photo.
Posted May 14, 2013, at 11 a.m.

It’s no surprise that Senate Republicans grouse about Obama administration policies on enforcing civil rights laws or limiting greenhouse-gas emissions. They are entitled to their policy views.

It’s a different matter for Republican leaders to manifest their views by blocking confirmation to Cabinet positions of the officials in charge of those policies. By doing so, on absurdly flimsy pretexts, Republicans not only impede the president’s nominations for labor secretary and chief of the Environmental Protection Agency but also undermine the normal flow of government, upon which presidents of both parties have depended. They help to subvert whatever is left of Americans’ faith in government.

Last Thursday, Republicans boycotted the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, thereby preventing a vote on the nomination of Gina McCarthy to lead the EPA. McCarthy, who was easily confirmed by the Senate to her current position as chief of the EPA’s clean air division, previously served as a top state environmental official under Republican governors in both Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Still, Republicans unhappy about the administration’s policies to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and other pollutants — “job-killing regulations,” in GOP parlance — demanded she submit answers to more than 1,000 questions, then deemed her answers inadequate. The deluge may be a record for a Cabinet appointee.

The Republican playbook is only slightly different in the case of Thomas Perez, chief of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, who is the nominee to become labor secretary. Democrats highly regard Perez, a former secretary of labor in Maryland, for his aggressive action on voting rights, police abuse and fair lending cases. Republicans dislike him for the same record. Again, there is no question that he is qualified for the job. But Perez, who if confirmed would be the only Hispanic in the Cabinet, has been the target of baseless personal attacks, with Sen. John Cornyn of Texas questioning Perez’s “temperament” and “competence.”

It is Washington at its worst, and that’s saying something.

The Washington Post (May 13)

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