CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin voted Thursday against confirming Gina McCarthy to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during President Obama's second term, making him the only Democrat to oppose Obama's pick for the post.
McCarthy won Senate approval by a 59-40 vote. Republicans had tied up her nomination since March 7, a record delay for an EPA administrator.
Manchin, in a floor speech hours prior to the final vote, did not challenge McCarthy's qualifications for the job, but said he opposed her as part of his fight over coal policies "with the EPA and the president who nominated her."
"That fight will not end with the Senate's vote on Ms. McCarthy's nomination," Manchin said. "That fight will continue until the EPA stops its regulatory rampage and until the president comes up with feasible policies that achieve real energy independence."
Manchin was also the only Democrat who voted with Republicans earlier Thursday to try to block a floor vote on whether McCarthy would be confirmed. The GOP lost that vote by a vote of 69-31.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., voted to confirm McCarthy, saying that leadership positions in the administration need to be filled "so the federal government can finally get work done."
"This includes the EPA, which provides an important function: to protect our health and water quality," Rockefeller said. "Gina McCarthy has a great deal of experience working with these issues, and as she starts her new job, I hope she will also work to find real solutions to create and save jobs in West Virginia.
"We need to find a responsible balance," Rockefeller said.
McCarthy ran EPA's air pollution division during Obama's first term. A Boston native, she holds degrees in social anthropology from the University of Massachusetts Boston and in environmental health, engineering, planning and policy from Tufts University.
In his speech opposing McCarthy's confirmation, Manchin said he met with her "a couple of weeks ago" and found McCarthy to be "earnest, friendly, pragmatic and incredibly intelligent."
"She is a talented scientist who has dedicated her life to public service, serving under Democrats and Republicans alike," Manchin said. "I certainly appreciate her pragmatism, her willingness to server her country and her stellar bipartisan credentials, an extremely rare quality in Washington these days."
Manchin also noted a point that many Democrats who supported McCarthy have repeatedly made -- that she advised Mitt Romney on climate change when he was governor of Massachusetts.