Byline: Tom LoBianco, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Senators quizzing President-elect Barack Obama's energy and environment Cabinet members last week pondered whether they were vetting the wrong people - raising larger questions about who will steer the nation's climate and energy policies.
Sen. James M. Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asked Nancy Sutley, Mr. Obama's pick for Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) chairman, whether she would be undermined by the new climate czar, Carol M. Browner.
I'm quite concerned that the chair's role has been diluted by the addition of former EPA Administrator Carol Browner as White House climate and energy czar, said Mr. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican. The new Senate-confirmed CEQ chair will be expected to have the full authority to represent the White House on all matters before this committee.
Mr. Inhofe also prodded Mrs. Browner at a press conference last week about her ties to the Socialist International's Commission for a Sustainable World Society. The Washington Times had reported that she had been listed until recently as one of 14 leaders of the Society and had attended a conference of the socialist group last summer.
Mr. Obama announced last month that Mrs. Browner would coordinate among Cabinet members who work on energy and environmental goals from the new post on the White House staff.
The hearings last week provided the first major forum for questions about who will guide climate and energy priorities in the new administration, which have been brewing since Mr. Obama said last month he would create the new post.
A transition-team spokeswoman said Mrs. Browner will work with Cabinet appointments to advise Mr. Obama.
The range of energy and climate issues impact the entire federal government, and [Mr. Obama] will rely on the advice and counsel of not only these individuals, but also additional members of his Cabinet and White House advisers for their expertise and input, said Jen Psaki, a transition-team spokeswoman. …