# Gina McCarthy

2,4-D crops rubberstamped

(Bad news for Iowa farmers who grow vegetables and fruits (including vineyards), or who raise livestock on chemical-free pastures. Bleeding Heartland user black desert nomad covered some of the potential risks here. Even for conventional corn and beans farmers, the approach rubber-stamped by the EPA and USDA is likely to exacerbate the "superweed" problem over time. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

It's official. EPA and USDA have both evaluated Dow Chemical's new  line of 2,4-D-resistant seeds, Enlist — and have approved both the seeds  and the accompanying pesticide formulation for market.

This is a turning point, not just for grain production but for food  production in the U.S. and internationally. The introduction of Enlist  corn and soybeans, and the widespread adoption of this new seed line,  will have pervasive impacts on farmer livelihoods, public health and  control of our food system.


This is a decision that our regulators should not have taken lightly.  And yet, it seems they did. Both USDA and EPA set up an intentionally  narrow scope for evaluating the potential harms posed by 2,4-D resistant  crops — one that ignored the biggest problems and held up irrelevant  factors as evidence of safety.

As small farmers brace for the impact of pesticide drift that will  hit with the introduction of Enlist crops, it is time for us to look  forward. It's time to demand a regulatory system that takes a rigorous  approach to pesticides and genetically engineered crops, one that values  small farmers as much as industrial agriculture — and public health as  much as corporate profit.

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Three ways the EPA carbon emissions plan will benefit Iowa, plus Iowa political reaction

Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rolled out a proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. The full text of the rule and several short fact sheets are available on the EPA’s website. Click here to read EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s speech about the new policy. This fact sheet makes the short and sweet case for targeting power plants, “the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S.” The new policy goal is to “cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent from 2005 levels” by the year 2030. Other associated benefits: cutting levels of soot and smog in the air by over 25 percent in 2030, and saving money and lives through reducing air pollution. In fact, the EPA estimates $7 in health benefits for every dollar spent to implement the new policy.

While some in the environmental community were hoping for more aggressive carbon reduction targets, the new rule would be a big step in the right direction. For too long, elected officials in Iowa and nationally have ignored evidence that we need to address climate change. Furthermore, coal’s “assault on human health” is immense and under-appreciated.

Iowa political reaction to yesterday’s news was mostly disappointing but not surprising. I’ve enclosed noteworthy comments at the end of this post. But first, let’s examine three reasons Iowans should embrace the EPA’s new rule.  

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Senate confirms Labor, EPA nominees: How Harkin and Grassley voted

The U.S. Senate confirmed two cabinet nominees today who had waited since March for an up or down vote in the chamber. The nominations moved forward thanks to a deal negotiated earlier this week. Six Republicans joined the whole Democratic caucus to pass a cloture motion ending debate on the nomination of Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor by 60 votes to 40 (roll call). Shortly thereafter, senators confirmed Perez on a straight party-line vote of 54 to 46. Mike Memoli reported that the “Senate Historian can’t find another example” of a cabinet nominee being confirmed on a strict party-line vote. Iowa’s Democratic Senator Tom Harkin voted for cloture and confirmation; Republican Chuck Grassley voted against Perez both times. He did not support the deal designed to reduce filibusters on executive branch nominations.

Later today, senators passed a cloture motion ending debate on Gina McCarthy’s nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency by a more comfortable 69 to 31 margin. McCarthy was then confirmed by 59 votes to 40. Again, Harkin supported McCarthy, while Grassley voted against both cloture and her confirmation.

I will update this post if I see any comment from Iowa’s senators on the new cabinet members.

Harkin and Grassley on the latest Senate confirmations and filibuster deal

Democrats in the U.S. Senate came closer than ever this week to stopping Republicans from forcing a supermajority vote on executive branch nominees. An informal deal deterred Democrats from changing Senate rules by simple majority vote and cleared the path for a handful of President Barack Obama’s nominees to go forward. However, more struggles over confirmations seem likely in the future.

Iowa’s Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley could hardly be further apart on the process by which the Senate gives its “advice and consent.”  

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Obama cabinet update: Napolitano out, two nominees still in limbo

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will leave President Barack Obama’s cabinet to become president of the University of California system, the administration announced Friday. Nanette Asimov wrote a good account of the challenges she’ll face in her new position. Napolitano was rumored to have wanted Attorney General Eric Holder’s job during Obama’s second term. The White House hasn’t announced her replacement yet, but Juliet Eilperin and Aaron Blake speculated about sixteen possible candidates. Half the names on that wide-raging list were unfamiliar to me. I hope Obama doesn’t tap either former Senator Joe Lieberman or former Representative Jane Harman.

Meanwhile, two highly qualified people nominated for cabinet positions in March have yet to receive up or down votes in the full Senate. Fox News Latino reported on July 12 that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will try to get a confirmation vote on Thomas Perez for secretary of labor this week. Perez faces strong opposition among Senate Republicans. The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda is lobbying hard for his confirmation; that group’s leader and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have criticized the president “for not appointing more Hispanics to his administration.”

I haven’t seen any details about a confirmation vote for Gina McCarthy, Obama’s nominee as chief administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. I’ve been pessimistic about her chances, but Darren Goode reported for Politico earlier this month that McCarthy “seems likely” to win confirmation, thanks to a few Republicans who may not like the president’s environmental agenda, but “have traditionally opposed filibustering presidential nominees.” His word in God’s ear, as the Yiddish proverb goes. Goode’s piece also noted that McCarthy has faced “a record delay for a nominee to head EPA” and that Bob Perciasepe has now served as acting EPA administrator for an unprecedented amount of time in the EPA’s 40-year history. The Senate has never rejected a president’s choice for that cabinet position.

Any comments on the Obama administration are welcome in this thread.

Obama cabinet update: several confirmed but two nominees in trouble

It’s been a while since Bleeding Heartland covered the status of President Barack Obama’s cabinet nominees. Within the last week, senators have confirmed three nominees with little controversy. However, Republicans appear determined to block two highly-qualified appointees: Thomas Perez and Gina McCarthy.

Details on recent cabinet confirmation votes are after the jump, along with background on the latest to be confirmed, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  

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Obama sends a message with Pritzker for Commerce secretary

Yesterday President Barack Obama nominated Penny Pritzker as Secretary of Commerce and Mike Froman as U.S. trade representative. You can read the president’s spin on Pritzker’s “distinguished” business leadership here.

Although this nomination has been expected for months, it still sends an unfortunate message. Pritzker was one of the largest bundlers for Obama’s re-election campaign and one of the largest donors to his inaugural festivities, so the president has overlooked union-busting by her family’s Hyatt Hotel chain, as well as her union-busting as a member of the Chicago Board of Education, her aggressive use of legal means to avoid taxes on her massive wealth, and her role in managing a subprime lender (hat tip to Susie Madrak). Organized labor groups will be furious.

Pritzker will probably sail through the Senate confirmation process. Too bad the president didn’t hold back this nomination until Senate votes on his other cabinet appointees. I would hate to see corporate interest groups tank Gina McCarthy, Obama’s excellent choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Any comments about the administration are welcome in this thread.

Mid-week open thread, with latest Obama cabinet news

As expected, President Barack Obama nominated Thomas Perez this week to run the U.S. Department of Labor. Media Matters posted “myths and facts” about the labor nominee here. Adam Serwer summarized Perez’s record and commented that Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is “chief” among the nominee’s “political enemies.” Other Senate Republicans who have criticized Perez include David Vitter of Louisiana and Jeff Sessions of Alabama. John Gramlich commented in Roll Call,

Perez succeeded in blocking Republican-backed voting laws in South Carolina and Texas that his division deemed racially discriminatory. He pressed racial profiling charges against Joe Arpaio, the Republican sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., who is among the most divisive figures in the national immigration debate. His handling of a legal agreement with the city of St. Paul, Minn., in a lending discrimination case has drawn condemnation from Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who has called it a “quid pro quo” and a “shady deal.”

Senate criticism of Perez so far has come primarily from Grassley and the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Justice Department and is seen as one of the more-partisan panels in the chamber. Perez’s nomination to the Labor Department will not come before the Judiciary Committee, however. It will come before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is the top Republican.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri has put a procedural hold on Gina McCarthy’s nomination as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Spring is just around the corner, so Iowa wildflower Wednesday will return to Bleeding Heartland soon. Meanwhile, enjoy some gorgeous wildflower photos from southern California at La Vida Locavore.

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Latest Obama cabinet appointments: Energy and EPA

President Barack Obama announced two new cabinet appointments yesterday: Ernest Moniz as secretary of Energy and Gina McCarthy as Environmental Protection Agency administrator. Bleeding Heartland posted background on Moniz and McCarthy here; I’ve added more information after the jump.

McCarthy has served as the EPA’s top air quality official since 2009. Because she is well-qualified for the position and committed to making the country’s air cleaner, environmentalists are excited about this choice. I hope that Obama is not merely “promoting a climate change champion” to soften the blow when he approves the KeystoneXL pipeline. The State Department’s draft report on KeystoneXL whitewashed the impact that project would have on the environment.  

Also yesterday, Obama formally nominated Sylvia Matthews Burwell to be the new director of the Office of Management and Budget. The White House announcement notes, “She served as Deputy Director of the OMB from 1998 to 2001, as well as Deputy Chief of Staff to the President and Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration.” UPDATE: I should have added that Burwell is a former president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program, and that her most recent job was running the Wal-Mart Foundation.

The president has not yet announced his picks to run the departments of Labor, Transportation, or Commerce.

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Mid-week open thread, with latest Obama cabinet news

Do you want the good news first, or the bad news? President Barack Obama has reportedly settled on a strong candidate to replace Lisa Jackson as Environmental Protection Agency administrator. On the flip side, Steven Chu’s successor at the Department of Energy is likely to be a nuclear physicist with connections to major polluting industries. Details are after the jump. Still no word on the next secretary of transportation.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is the latest Republican governor to decide to expand Medicaid under the 2010 health care reform law. He was one of those leading the charge to have the law declared unconstitutional. Some comments from today’s press conference are after the jump as well. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder are all Republicans who opposed the Obama administration policy but have agreed to expand Medicaid in their states. I hope that when Iowa Governor Terry Branstad meets with U.S. Health and Human Services officials later this week, he will find some face-saving way to agree to expand Medicaid here. So far he sounds determined to resist the policy, despite the consensus of every major Iowa medical group as well as a wide array of religious and social justice organizations.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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