The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the nomination of Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt (R) to head the Environmental Protection Agency, two weeks after panel Democrats delayed the vote because of opposition to White House environmental policies. But some Senate Democrats have "holds" on Leavitt's nomination, blocking a floor vote.

The committee vote on Oct. 15 was 16-2, with Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) casting the dissenting votes.

Clinton, one of those with a hold on Leavitt's nomination, repeatedly has voiced concern about federal reports on lower Manhattan air quality after the Sept. 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center. Clinton calls the Bush environmental policies "damaging," and says that Leavitt has "a high standard to meet in terms of providing information to this committee about his policy views and about the direction he would take EPA."


Leavitt and the administration responded in writing to nearly 400 questions from Democrats after his confirmation hearing. "Some members feel the information is adequate to recommend moving forward, other members feel that the information is not adequate," said James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.), the panel's ranking minority member, who traditionally votes with the Democrats.

Out of respect for Leavitt, Jeffords allowed the committee vote to go forward. But he said that he expects more information to be provided before the full Senate vote.

Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) called Leavitt "one of the most highly qualified individuals" nominated to be EPA administrator over the years.

Citing bipartisan support for Leavitt's eventual confirmation, Inhofe said, "We must not allow presidential politics or partisan bickering to sacrifice a nominee with a proven record of environmental accomplishments."