By Amy Harder
National Journal
May 15, 2013

Republicans’ decision to boycott a planned committee vote of President Obama’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency made them look like “sore losers,” said Christine Todd Whitman, EPA administrator under President George W. Bush.

“They looked like sore losers when they walked out the way they did,” Whitman said of the decision last week by Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to not attend the planned confirmation vote of Gina McCarthy to head EPA. “I do give them credit for having a broader strategy than just that. They are trying to paint a portrait, but I don’t see walking out like that as a successful way of doing it.”

In their decision not to attend last week’s committee vote to confirm McCarthy, Republicans, led by committee ranking member David Vitter, R-La., said the agency was stonewalling their requests to get more information and not being transparent about EPA’s use of internal e-mails.

Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has now rescheduled the vote for Thursday. After meeting with EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe on Tuesday, Vitter said that how Republicans handle that rescheduled vote depends on EPA’s responses to Republicans’ questions about transparency.

“My meeting with EPA this afternoon was productive. We discussed Republicans’ five key transparency requests (again),” Vitter said in a statement. “They’ll be getting back to us on those late [Wednesday], and that will determine Republican EPW members’ approach to Thursday’s scheduled markup.”

Whitman, who is also a former Republican governor of New Jersey, said the decision to not attend the original meeting to confirm McCarthy was “very unusual.”

“I was surprised by it. I was disappointed by it,” Whitman said. “I didn’t think that was one of our finer moments. Let me put it that way.”

With increased scrutiny on the administration’s stated commitment to transparency in light of the IRS, AP phone records, and Benghazi investigations, EPA’s alleged lack of transparency could fit well into this broader narrative.

“Transparency is an issue they’re going to go after,” said Whitman, noting the Benghazi investigation. “Whether it’s legitimate to go after it with EPA or not, I don’t know. I have my doubts.”

Whitman is not the only Republican EPA administrator to question Republicans’ strategy regarding Obama’s nominee. William Reilly, who was administrator under President George H. W. Bush, questioned why Republicans were holding up McCarthy’s nomination when they have not expressed any concern about McCarthy herself.

“I have seen no such charges or suspicions,” Reilly said. “The transparency is a principle that a lot of people believe in, but it’s being applied in a fairly extreme way.”

Whitman agrees.

“If you don’t object to the person and what they’ve done in the past, and they don’t with Gina, then you have even less ground to hold this up,” Whitman said. “You just don’t want to be seen as being able to be painted as nothing but an obstructionist. It’s been an issue for Republicans in the last campaign.”