Senate Confirms 2 Controversial Nominees, Republicans Wonder if They Got Bad Deal

Gina McCarthy and Thomas Perez are confirmed, but some Republicans grumble that it's not fair.

(Left) Thomas Perez testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination on April 18, 2013. (Right) Gina McCarthy stands with President Barack Obama as he announces her nomination to head the EPA on March 4, 2013, at the White House.

After months of delays, the Senate confirmed Thomas Perez, left, as Labor Secretary, and Gina McCarthy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday.

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After 136 days and more than 1,000 questions, the Senate confirmed Gina McCarthy Wednesday to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

[RELATED: Republicans Stage Boycott of EPA Nominee McCarthy]

Her nomination was at the center of a Senate showdown this week in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., threatened to change the rules of the Senate to approve seven executive nominees whose confirmations had been held up.

President Barack Obama released a public statement Thursday evening congratulating McCarthy and the Senate for the confirmation.

"I am pleased that today the Senate took bipartisan action to confirm Gina McCarthy as the next Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. With years of experience at the state and local level, Gina is a proven leader who knows how to build bipartisan support for commonsense environmental solutions that protect the health and safety of our kids while promoting economic growth," Obama said. "Over the past four years, I have valued Gina's counsel and I look forward to having her in my Cabinet as we work to slow the effects of climate change and leave a cleaner environment for future generations."

Senate Republicans had dragged their heels during the nomination process not because of McCarthy's record (she had served four GOP governors), but more out of concern for the president's environmental agenda, which some senators, including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., argued has been vehemently anti coal.

[POLL: Do Senate Republicans Need to Confirm Obama's Appointees?]

"I voted against Gina McCarthy to be the next Administrator of the EPA, but my fight is not with her. My fight is with President Obama and the EPA, the regulatory agency that has consistently placed unreasonable regulations and unobtainable standards on energy production, rather than focus on efforts to develop a domestic all-of-the-above energy strategy for the future," Manchin said in a released statement.

On Thursday, The Senate confirmed Thomas Perez to be Secretary of Labor, a move many Republicans grumbled was a poor choice because of Perez's very liberal background. "Mr. Perez's record indicates a lack of respect for the rule of law in his efforts to reach a misguided definition of 'justice,'" Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a statement.

"From his uncooperative and questionably ethical handling of cases involving housing discrimination law in St. Paul, MN, to recent whistleblower reports accusing him of substantial misconduct at his previous role at the Department of Justice, Mr. Perez has not proved himself capable of carrying out the duties of this position."

While six Republicans crossed party lines to overcome a filibuster for Perez in the final vote, lawmakers stayed on their side of the aisle.

[OPINION: Perez Nomination Could Be a Trap for the GOP

The timely confirmations were part of a deal stuck by rank-and-file Republicans and Reid to keep the Senate majority leader from changing the Senate rules. In the deal, Democrats would get five nominees confirmed immediately.

Obama then had to replace two of his nominees for the National Labor Relations Board – an entity Republicans have long railed against – with two new nominees, but he will then get those confirmed as early as next week.

Many in the GOP are having second thoughts about the deal they struck.

According to multiple news reports, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., chastised his caucus for going along with the Democrats' plan and speedily confirming the controversial nominees.

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