WASHINGTON - A temporary stumbling block disappeared yesterday, allowing for quick Senate confirmation of Lisa P. Jackson as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
A Princeton University-educated chemical engineer, Jackson, 46, is the first African American to lead the EPA. She is the former head of New Jersey's environmental agency.
Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) had said earlier that he would object to her confirmation. But Barrasso removed that obstacle after talking with Carol Browner, who will assume a new White House post to coordinate energy and climate-related issues, said Greg Keeley, a spokesman for the senator. Barrasso had been concerned about Browner's role in EPA issues, Keeley said.
Senate leaders had wanted to confirm Jackson unanimously along with half a dozen other nominees hours after Obama became president Tuesday. But Barrasso's objection, orginally made behind the scenes, prevented that.
Keeley said Barrasso wanted clarification on what Browner's role would be on issues involving the EPA and "to know . . . how she will interact with Ms. Jackson" and whether Jackson would report to Browner or someone else at the White House.
Keeley said the senator, after speaking to both Jackson and Browner, was now "much more comfortable" that Browner - who does not have to be confirmed - would be subject to congressional accountability. He did not provide further details.
Barrasso's action never threatened Jackson's confirmation but could have delayed it.
Jackson worked at the EPA for 16 years, including during the Clinton administration, when Browner headed the agency.
In 2002 she began work at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and four years later was named to head the state agency. In December she became Gov. Corzine's chief of staff.