Missouri senator threatens block on EPA administrator

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt threatened Monday to block President Barack Obama's choice for Environmental Protection Agency administrator until plans are resolved for a long-stalled levee project in southeast Missouri.

The two senators from Missouri, Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill, expressed disappointment that the EPA and two other agencies missed a self-imposed March 15 deadline to establish a plan to move forward with the St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway project.

"Once again, the government is arguing with the government while nothing is accomplished," Blunt said in a statement.

Construction to close a 1,500-foot gap in the levee was halted in 2007 due to technical problems with the project's Environmental Impact Statement. Years of efforts by lawmakers to get the project re-started have failed, prompting Blunt and McCaskill last month to convene a meeting with representatives of the EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corps of Engineers.

The agencies told the senators on Friday that they couldn't meet the deadline to establish a timeline for re-starting the levee project. Blunt responded by saying he was placing a "hold" on the nomination of Gina McCarthy as EPA chief. Obama announced her nomination earlier this month.

A hold is a parliamentary procedure permitted by the rules of the Senate, which allows as few as one senator to prevent a motion from reaching a vote on the Senate floor. Because if takes unanimous consent to move forward a nomination, Blunt's lone objection can stall the process.