Jeffords to support EPA nominee despite Bush record

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(Host) Senator Jim Jeffords says it’s likely that he’ll vote in favor of President Bush’s new nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency. In the last few weeks, Jeffords has issued a number of blistering criticisms of the president’s environmental record.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Jeffords, who is the ranking minority member of the Senate Environment Committee, had an opportunity to question the president’s nominee, Utah governor Michael Leavitt, at a special confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

Jeffords told Leavitt that he feels the record of the EPA in the past few years has been “abysmal.” Jeffords accused the EPA of “dismantling environmental laws and the protections that our citizens have come to expect and deserve from their government.” Jeffords says he’s worked with Leavitt previously on many education issues and he plans to vote for the nominee because he believes that Leavitt understands the concerns that Jeffords is raising:

(Jeffords) “With the White House’s pressure the question is whether he can withstand it and take under consideration more seriously the Congress. Only time remains to show us but I’m hopeful and I will vote for his getting the job. But I’ll be watching very carefully what he does.”

(Kinzel) Jeffords says he’s also backing Leavitt because he’s concerned that the president might appoint a far worse candidate if the Leavitt nomination is rejected by the Senate:

(Jeffords) “It’s because I have some faith in him and I would have more fears about anybody else. I think he’s the best we can hope for.”

(Kinzel) Jeffords is hoping that Leavitt will emerge as a strong proponent of environmental policies within the Bush administration.

(Jeffords) “At least make it obvious he disagrees, there’s no problem with that. Let us know that where he stands. I mean, we get our own private ways of communicating on these circumstances, I’m just hopeful that he’ll be frank and honest with us.”

(Kinzel) The Senate Environment Committee is scheduled to vote on the Leavitt nomination next week.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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