WASHINGTON -- Before joining the Obama administration, Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy was a high-ranking official for two Republican governors -- Massachusetts' Mitt Romney and Connecticut's Jodi Rell. But in Washington, she's found herself the target of numerous attacks from conservatives.
"For me, the environment has never been a partisan issue," McCarthy told The Huffington Post. "I deal with science and facts. And I try to make the most reasonable decisions I can, so that the environment can be recognized as really part and parcel of the foundation of a growing economy."
"I have never had any difficulty working for either a Republican or a Democrat, as long as they allow me to do my job, as long as we can keep politics out of it and real policy involvement in it," she said. "I think that we do a pretty good job here at EPA in trying to stay out of the politics and stay in our lane, which is to really speak for the American public and protect their right to clean air and clean water and healthy land."
But McCarthy's agency is often the subject of attacks from the right. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pledged to do whatever he can "to get the EPA reined in." Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has called the EPA "abusive and power-hungry," arguing that the agency has "done more harm than good." During the 2014 election, Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst said she'd like to shut down the EPA entirely.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently joked that he's glad he doesn't have McCarthy's job. "I wake up every morning, I say my prayers and I'm thankful that I'm not the EPA administrator," he told a House committee.
McCarthy shrugged off the attacks. "I’m happy that EPA is doing its job," she said. "I am honored to be able to defend the decisions of the agency and speak on its behalf."
"As long as we do the job that Congress gave us, with the authorities that Congress gave us, and we do it as well as we can within the law and science, we do it as transparently as we can, I will be able to stand up and be very proud of our efforts," she continued. "We’re doing the work we’re supposed to do. That’s why people are paying attention. But I work for the American public, that’s who I serve."
The above video was produced, filmed and edited by Ibrahim Balkhy, Christine Conetta, Brad Shannon, Maxwell Tani and Adriana Usero.