Senate panel strips Youngkin’s environment pick from list of nominations for approval

The General Assembly confirms gubernatorial appointments through the passage of resolutions. For instance, Senate Joint Resolution 83 covers agency heads and ranges from new Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow to Phil Wittmer, the new chief information officer for the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. 

SJ84 covers Cabinet -level position, from new Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Craig Crenshaw through Andrew Wheeler, Governor Youngkin’s pick for Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources. 

The 15-member Senate Privileges and Elections Committee took up those two resolutions and a third on Tuesday. Because the Democratic Party has a slight majority in the Senate, they control the Committees. 

Wheeler’s nomination has been opposed by Democrats and an amendment was made to SJ84 to eliminate his name from approval. Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25) made this motion as soon as the committee took up the resolution yesterday. 

“Mr. Chairman, I move that we amend Senate Joint Resolution 84 to remove lines 42 and 43,” Deeds said. 

That would end the resolution to approve the late up to George Slater, Youngkin’s pick for Secretary of Labor. Republican members of the Committee wanted to debate the amendment. Here’s an exchange between Senator Ryan McDougle (R-4) and Deeds.

McDougle:

“It’s clear that the Committee is stacked 9 to 6 and in a non-partisan way what’s going to happen we should at least have a conversation about it.”

Deeds:

“We’ve received a letter from 150 former [Environmental Protection Agency] employees who suggested that Mr. Wheeler had undermined the work of the EPA and worked against the environmental interests of this country. We think that members of the Governor’s Cabinet ought to be people that unite us as Virginians and certainly the Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources ought to be one one that we have confidence in in terms of working for the preservation and conservation of our natural and historic resources and on this side of the aisle we don’t have that level of confidence with this nominee.”

Senator Bryce Reeves read from Wheeler’s resume.

Reeves: 

“He completed his law degree at Washington University and when he served as the administration’s EPA principal, all the things that he’s done, he gave $225 million in funding for water reuse projects to protect the [Chesapeake Bay], provided $200 million for wastewater infrastructure to prevent runoff and sewage from reaching the Bay,  provided funding to Pennsylvania agencies to address agricultural runoff. In 2020 the Bay attained the lowest dead zone in 30 years and underwater seagrasses have increased 34,000 to 100,000 acres. Air emissions decreased seven percent during the last administration and these reductions were pre-COVID. I could just go on and on and on.”

However, Senator Deeds said the Republicans failed to approve an appointment by Governor Tim Kaine in 2006. According to Virginia Memory, Kaine had nominated Daniel LeBlanc to serve as Secretary of Commonwealth, but the House of Delegates blocked used the same procedure to remove LeBlanc in a vote taken on March 7, 2006. (SJ186 from 2006)

“The precedent has been set,” Deeds said.


Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the February 2, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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