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The Senate Is Holding Up a Long List of Obama Nominees

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-- Louisiana Republican David Vitter has a hold on Paul Anastas to be an assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency until the EPA agrees to delay issuing regulations on formaldehyde, which has been classified as a probable human carcinogen. The irony of Vitter's hold is that one of the biggest potential problems with the chemical involves Hurricane Katrina survivors exposed to formaldehyde in FEMA trailers.

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-- Meanwhile, Ohio Republican George Voinovich is holding up the nominee for EPA's deputy administrator, Robert Perciasepe, because Voinovich believes the EPA is underestimating the cost to households of climate change legislation. In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Voinovich acknowledged that his hold is not "a reflection on Mr. Perciasepe's ability to perform in the role of the deputy administrator."

-- South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint is blocking confirmation of Arturo Valenzuela to be assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere because Valenzuela had the temerity to call the military coup ousting Honduran President Manuel Zelaya a "classic military coup."

-- Eight Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, warned Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that "we will not consent" to Senate floor action on nearly a dozen nominations -- including the U.S. surgeon general -- until the department rescinds what they termed a "gag order" on health insurers.

-- Some nominations can't even get out of committee, with the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee a particular black hole. Two nominees for the National Labor Relations Board have been mired there since April. Patricia Smith, the nominee for solicitor of labor, is about to get a committee vote after having been stuck there since March.

Jackie Berrien was nominated in July to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but Republicans have refused to act on her nomination until a pick for a Republican vacancy is named. Commissioner Christine Griffin has been confirmed to be deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management but can't leave to take that spot because the EEOC would be left without a quorum.

Being in the minority isn't fun. Gumming up the works with holds is one of the few ways to get attention -- and action. But it's no way to run a government.

marcusr@washpost.com


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