The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 19-3 Thursday to approve Sally Jewell, President Obama’s nominee to replace outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted against Jewell, the CEO of outdoor gear giant REI Inc.
While the nomination cleared the panel, a number of GOP senators have not ruled out placing procedural barriers in front of Jewell before her nomination comes before the full Senate.
Murkowski and other Alaskan lawmakers say the road is needed to provide emergency medical access to a small village called King Cove.
While Jewell won a lopsided vote in committee, her bid to run Interior is not in the clear yet.
Interior, under President Obama, has faced frequent pushback from GOP lawmakers in western states, where the department controls huge swaths of land.
Critics say the agency’s policies on energy and species protection too many restrictions on oil-and-gas drilling and other commercial activities — attacks that have swirled around Jewell's nomination.
Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) voted for Jewell Thursday but did not rule out placing a “hold” on her before the nomination reaches the Senate floor, noting he “reserves the right” to do so.
Barrasso, for his part, on Thursday revived criticism of her work on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association and said she has provided incomplete answers to some questions.
“I think many of those answers were incomplete,” Barrasso said. “I fully expect that we want to give the nominee the time that she needs to complete the record.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chairman of the panel, applauded Jewell, who worked in the oil and banking industries before leading REI.
“[Sally] is going to give each member of this committee her ear and her expertise that comes from having managed to pack a host of professional careers — petroleum engineer, CEO, and banker, to name just a few — into just one lifetime. I have full confidence in Sally Jewell’s ability to take on this important assignment,” he said.
It is not clear when the full Senate will vote on Jewell, who is expected to ultimately be confirmed.
League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski, in a statement, called for quick confirmation.
He credited President Obama for growing the deployment of green energy and said the president has “protected some of our most cherished landscapes.”
“But there’s a lot more work to do. That’s why we need Sally Jewell leading the Interior Department and working every day to protect public lands and promote conservation,” Karpinski said.
This post was updated at 11:25 a.m.