President Trump's nominee to a key chemicals regulation post narrowly passed a Senate committee Oct. 25, but Democrats and environmental groups said it threatened to rip up delicate compromises forged in last year's overhaul of toxic chemicals regulation.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11-10 to approve Michael Dourson as assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at the Environmental Protection Agency. Dourson's nomination will now go before the full Senate.
But Democrats on the committee said the party line vote had broader implications than just Dourson, saying it raised doubts about the implementation of last year's major overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
"Mr. Dourson does not represent a person who can carry out the work of this committee in the TSCA reform legislation we passed," said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md). "This is an area that Democrats and Republicans worked together to reform the TSCA law. It was not easy."
Last year's TSCA rewrite, the first major revision to U.S. chemical regulations in 40 years, passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, with the House voting 403-12.
In speeches during the Oct. 25 vote, Democrats contrasted that with the party line vote of all 11 Republicans in favor and all 10 Democrats opposing Dourson.
"It doesn't bode well for the bipartisan cooperation in this committee to pass legislation that we expect to be implemented in the manner in which it was negotiated in this committee," Cardin said.
Democrats on the EPW committee criticized Dourson for having too many financial ties to industry he will now be regulating, including work in areas like fluoropolymers and flame retardants for plastics.
But Republicans said Dourson would bring more balance to EPA decision making, suggesting the agency had been too precautionery in assessing risk during the Obama administration.
The EPA issued a statement praising the vote for Dourson and other EPA nominees during the same committee meeting.
"I want to thank Chairman John Barrasso and members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for granting our nominees a fair hearing and approving their nominations," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
"These top leaders in their fields will bring positive change to EPA's mission to protect human health and the environment. We look forward to a full Senate vote on these highly-qualified leaders," he said.