Youngkin selects Andrew Wheeler as lead adviser
The governor previously appointed Wheeler, who led the Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump, to serve as his secretary of natural and historic resources. While Virginia’s General Assembly rarely blocks Cabinet nominations, Senate Democrats have said they can’t support Wheeler, who led a rollback in environmental protections while serving in the Trump administration.
“We received a letter from 150 former EPA employees that suggested Mr. Wheeler undermined the work of the EPA and worked against the environmental interests of this country,” said Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D- Bath) during a committee hearing on the bid. “We believe that members of the Governor’s cabinet should be people who unite us Virginians.”
The decision to block Wheeler has led to a growing partisan row in Richmond in recent weeks that has spilled over beyond environmental politics. In February, Republicans in the House of Delegates voted against confirming 11 state panel nominations proposed by former Gov. Ralph Northam (D), again breaking with tradition at the state Capitol.
Youngkin is not the first Virginia governor to turn a rejected cabinet candidate into an adviser. After Democrats opposed Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s efforts to appoint Robert Sledd as Secretary of Commerce and Commerce, McDonnell made Sledd an unpaid senior economic adviser.
Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.