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Despite misgivings, McGinty likely to be OK'd

| Monday, May 12, 2003

Katie McGinty, Gov. Ed Rendell's choice for state Department of Environmental Protection secretary, will probably win Senate confirmation next month despite dissatisfaction with her in some quarters of the Republican-controlled state Senate.

The state Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee took testimony and placed documents into the record about McGinty that could give some GOP senators a reason to vote against her.

State Sen. Mary Jo White's committee tracked McGinty's involvement as a top environmental advisor to former Democratic President William J. Clinton in a controversial federal land preservation project in Utah. White, a Venango County Republican, grilled McGinty about the deal in which the Clinton administration played political games and kept the largely Republican Utah congressional delegation in the dark about the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument until just before the announcement. Utah Sen. Robert Bennett, a Republican, claimed he had been misled by the Clinton administration about the announcement and was told maps did not exist four days before the 1996 announcement. Bennett placed McGinty at the epicenter of Clinton's aides handling the project, which apparently hinged on promises of campaign money from environmentalists.

White would later question McGinty's credibility on that incident and her general position that she had no basic philosophical difference with the senators she'd met. McGinty, an advisor to former Vice President Al Gore, is perceived by many as having a pro-environmental slant. Some senators are concerned she will be anti-business. She says not.

Nonetheless, insiders say McGinty will likely be confirmed. Only some further revelation or problem that McGinty creates herself would stand in the way. Only McGinty can stop herself, one GOP insider told me.

On April 25, the Senate failed to act on the Democratic governor's nomination within the prescribed time period. Rendell was advised by Republican leaders to withdraw the nomination. He did so and immediately resubmitted her nomination, creating another 25-day cycle for the Senate to consider McGinty.

It's general practice for the Senate, which holds the power to approve or reject the governor's nominees, to give a new governor the people he wants in his state Cabinet.

Only problems of a scandalous nature or major ethical lapses generally have held up nominees and that's a very rare occurrence.

The Senate as a rule doesn't just reject a Cabinet member because they do not agree with that person's philosophy. Many GOP senators undoubtedly have disagreed with the politics of several other Rendell nominees but confirmed them anyway.

Some were taken back by McGinty's assertion that business would be on an even playing field and that she'd have an open door. Pressed by state Sen. Jim Rhoades, a Schuylkill County Republican, to make sure there would be no slant against business, McGinty said, "You've got my word."

Some senators wanted more time to see if they are comfortable with McGinty.

McGinty was given time to get back to senators again and reassure them. McGinty is said to be bright, engaging, and personable.

Some speculate that McGinty's nomination could become a bargaining chip for Republicans. But top GOP staffers said that's not the case and that McGinty's nomination stands alone.

Presumably, she starts with 21 Democratic votes. McGinty had at least 3 Republican senators in her corner at one point recently. McGinty is from Philadelphia and she has support from southeastern Pennsylvania Republicans.

Rendell apparently needs two more votes to win confirmation for McGinty. She needs 26 votes in the 50-member Senate to win confirmation.

Whether or not you agree, McGinty will probably get the needed votes unless she hurts herself.

However, there will be "no" votes cast - sending a message to Rendell about the doubts among some Republicans on this nominee.

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