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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing next Thursday on the nomination of Gov. Mike Leavitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
Committee Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., said he hopes to put Leavitt's nomination to the committee for a vote possibly late this month, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday.
However, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., is planning to block Leavitt's nomination until she receives a more complete explanation of why the White House pressured the EPA not to warn New York residents of the danger from airborne asbestos, lead and other harmful substances following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The administration has defended its decision as having been justified by national security concerns.
Clinton and fellow committee members James Jeffords, I-Vt., Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Bob Graham, D-Fla., had asked Inhofe to schedule a committee hearing next Thursday on the health warning issue.
Inhofe rejected the request, declaring, "the motivation for a hearing is strictly political," and he scheduled Leavitt's confirmation on that day.
The Democrats still intend to use the hearing as a forum for their allegations of a 9-11 air quality cover-up and for their other environmental grievances against the Bush administration.
"He (Leavitt) will face some tough questions when he comes before the committee for his confirmation hearing," Jeffords said in a statement.
"He will have to explain to the committee and the American public why this administration is determined to weaken our environmental laws. That is going to be a tough question to answer."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)