Senate panel's move shows Whitman has bipartisan support

Thursday, January 25, 2001

By ALISON VEKSHIN
States News Service

WASHINGTON -- In a sign of bipartisan support, the full Senate agreed Wednesday to bypass a committee vote on Governor Whitman's nomination to be Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

The procedural action known as unanimous consent means the full Senate is set to debate the governor's nomination Tuesday morning and vote early that afternoon, according to Marty Hall, a spokesman for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Whitman testified last week before the committee, and her confirmation vote had been expected this week. It was delayed, however, because of other Senate business on the agenda today and members' desire to read written responses Whitman had provided. The Senate is in session Tuesday through today.

"There were no objections from anyone on the committee or on the full Senate to moving her nomination to the full Senate. That's a good sign," Hall said.

He added that all the committee members, including New Jersey's new senator, Democrat Jon Corzine, supported her and Hall expected a successful confirmation.

"So far, we've heard nothing but good things about her," Hall said. "She's enjoyed bipartisan support in the committee and we would expect nothing less on the floor."

Committee members are reviewing Whitman's written responses to questions the senators posed last week.

Corzine asked Whitman to explain in writing her position on the EPA's program to implement a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in all programs receiving federal financial assistance. Whitman said she was unfamiliar with the law during her testimony.

Corzine also questioned Whitman's commitment to cleaning up Superfund sites and asked her to elaborate on her position on the controversial Meadowlands Mills mall project, which would require filling in wetlands around the Meadowlands.

The committee would not release Whitman's responses to those questions Wednesday, and Corzine spokesman David Wald said he was not sure if the senator had read them yet. But he did not expect it would derail her nomination.

"The senator has no objections to moving this nomination forward," said Wald.