The Senate Thursday voted 59-40 to confirm Gina McCarthy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency despite some feet-dragging by Republican lawmakers resulting in a 69-31 vote to invoke cloture.
McCarthy was nominated in March to take over for exiting administrator Lisa Jackson, who resigned in December, 2012. Her nomination marks the longest period between nomination and confirmation of any other cabinet selection for Obama's second term.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., opposed the nomination, citing issues with McCarthy's stance on some EPA policies. Particularly, he fought against coal policies that he believes could potentially put many out of work in his state.
"Ms. McCarthy has been the President’s field general in implementing these ("anti-coal") policies, and these policies greatly affect families all across Wyoming and across the country," he said.
Only one Democrat voted in the negative.
Voting in the affirmative were mostly Democrats, who supported McCarthy's nomination and defended her previous work on air quality standards. They pointed out that she previously worked for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney – a Republican – as a policy undersecretary.
Environmental group the Sierra Club supported the nomination, chastising Congress for the 137 days it took to complete her nomination. However, the club said in a statement, "we look forward to working with her continue the EPA's vital work of protecting American families and holding polluters accountable."
The National Biodiesel Board was also supportive of McCarthy's nomination, calling her a "strong, dynamic leader who knows the intersection of environment and energy issues as well as anyone in the nation."
McCarthy will be charged with implementing the President's new carbon standards, managing the Renewable Fuels Standard and handling negative allegations by some lawmakers regarding EPA's transparency.
She will also tackle several hot-button issues that will be top-of-mind for agriculture, including alleged EPA flyovers on livestock farms, Freedom of Information Act releases and water and air quality complaints.
McCarthy was most recently the assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. She holds a joint Master of Science in Environmental Health Engineering and Planning and Policy from Tufts University.