Senate Confirms Leavitt for EPA; Vote for Utah Governor Ends Threat of Block

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Senate yesterday confirmed Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in an overwhelming 88-8 vote.

Some Democrats had threatened to block his confirmation and Republicans had braced for a filibuster. But opposition melted away Monday as Democrats realized Mr. Leavitt had unanimous support among Republicans and strong support among Democrats.

Republicans said Mr. Leavitt, who is in his third term as governor of Utah, is so clearly qualified that Democrats had to back down.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, said that "The record is clear that Michael Leavitt is a champion of the environment."

Even some of those who fought Mr. Leavitt admitted they had nothing against him, but rather were using him to make clear their objections to the Bush administration's environmental policy.

Mr. Leavitt succeeds former administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and the three presidential candidates serving in the Senate led the opposition to Mr. Leavitt, and initially forced Republicans to schedule a "cloture" vote to overcome their block. That would have made Republicans earn 60 votes to stop a filibuster and force a final up-or-down vote.

But on Monday Mrs. Clinton struck a deal with the White House in which the administration promised to do more testing of air quality around ground zero, the spot of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Mrs. Clinton withdrew her objection and ended up voting for Mr. Leavitt.

Among the eight Democrats who voted against Mr. Leavitt were Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Jon Corzine and Frank R. …