Frist may Seek to Force Vote on EPA Nomination

Frist may Seek to Force Vote on EPA Nomination

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist may try to break a Democratic effort to block President Bush's nomination of Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

"I think we will consider filing cloture soon and feel its important that the president's Cabinet be complete," said Amy Call, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Republican.

A cloture vote is one to end debate and move to an immediate vote. Under current Senate rules, it takes 60 votes to end a filibuster blocking final action on legislation or a nomination.

Although recent presidents have been having their EPA chiefs sit in on Cabinet meetings, the agency has not be designated by Congress as a Cabinet-level department.

Democratic senators have seized on the Leavitt nomination as an opportunity to attack the Bush administration's environmental record.

James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, sought the unanimous consent of senators to bring the Leavitt nomination to the floor on Wednesday, but Democrats objected.

"Partisanship and presidential politics are blocking a highly qualified individual, with overwhelming bipartisan support, to lead a critically important federal agency," Inhofe said.

The nomination can be brought to the floor in spite of protests from Democrats if 60 members support the action.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has said she will block Leavitt's confirmation until the White House answers questions about who told the EPA to assure New Yorkers that air near the World Trade Center rubble was safe after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina -- all of whom are seeking the Democratic nomination for president -- have placed a hold on the Leavitt nomination.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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