Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt's nomination has become a political lightning rod for a number of Democrats, who have threatened to block the nomination to spotlight criticisms of Bush administration environmental policies.
Environmental and Public Works committee minority members -- including Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and ranking member Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., indicated they took the step in response to what they see as a lack of detailed answers to a number of political and policy questions asked of the governor.
Along with the boycott, they wrote a letter to committee chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., asking for a two-week delay in the vote to rectify the problem.
Inhofe and other Republican members of the committee expressed surprise and dismay at the move.
"I've never witnessed this in this committee room," a self-described "shocked" Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said at the hearing.
In response, committee Republicans took a mock vote giving approval to the nominee and scheduled another full committee vote for Oct. 14.