Senate confirms Zinke to lead Interior

Senate confirms Zinke to lead Interior
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The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) to be President Trump’s secretary of Interior.

The final vote tally was 68-31, with 16 Democrats joining all Republicans to support Zinke. He needed a simple majority to be approved.

The former Navy SEAL will now lead the 70,000-employee department with a wide range of responsibilities, from overseeing wide swaths of federal land to supervising offshore drilling and managing the government’s relationships with American Indian tribes.

Zinke will also be responsible for implementing President Trump’s policies at Interior, like a dramatic increase in fossil fuel development on federal land and a rollback of many of former President Obama’s climate change policies.

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Trump is expected soon to issue an executive order repealing the Obama administration’s moratorium on new federal land leases for coal mining. Zinke is responsible for those leases, and has come out strongly against Obama’s moratorium.

The incoming secretary had an easy confirmation process relative to some of Trump’s other cabinet nominees, owing in part to his moderate stance on many policy questions at Interior.

At his confirmation hearing, Zinke endorsed long-held Republican policies like allowing more oil and natural gas drilling. But he also came out strongly in favor of conservation priorities that Democrats hold dear, and promised to oppose large-scale transfers of federal land to state or private interests.

That earned him the support of some major conservation groups that usually align with Democrats, like the National Wildlife Federation and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

Still, major environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace opposed him, citing in large part his goals to increase drilling and mining.

Zinke told senators that he believes climate change is happening and humans contribute, but he isn’t sure of the extent of the human impact.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release Senate committee targets Pruitt scandals in spending bill GOP chairman seeks ‘sufficient’ funding for EPA watchdog office MORE (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Zinke understands the importance of conservation, multiple uses of federal land, energy development and the unique needs of westerns states that overwhelmingly host federal land.

“He was born in the West. He lives in the West. He understands it. He understands its people,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor.

“He’s also shown that he understands the needs for the department to be a partner and to be a partner for Alaska and our western states, which, again, contain the vast majority of our federal lands,” she continued.

“I believe that Rep. Zinke is an excellent choice to be our next secretary of the Interior.”

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellEnergy commission sees no national security risk from coal plant closures OPEC and Russia may raise oil output under pressure from Trump Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers MORE (D-Wash.), the Energy Committee’s top Democrat, applauded Zinke and welcomed much of what he told the panel.

But she said Trump’s policy plans for Interior — like increase fossil fuel development and rolling back land protections — would be disastrous, and Cantwell said Zinke showed no desire to push back against those.

“I’m not convinced that Congressman Zinke will be able to moderate the Trump administration’s extreme views on exploiting our public lands and i'm not sure you he will be able to stand up to the president and protect the public interest that is required on our public lands and manage for the benefit of all Americans, not just the oil and gas and mining companies and their commercial interests,” she said.

“We need an Interior secretary capable of standing up to the president to make preserving our public lands a priority, but during my meeting with nominee Zinke, his confirmation hearings and before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on which I sit and his record as a member of congress, I did not receive the assurances and commitments I needed to support his confirmation as Interior secretary.”

Zinke, who the GOP had eyed to run for the Senate next year against Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterTrump signs VA reform bill without Democratic co-author The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Primary results give both parties hopes for November GOP support growing for anti-Trump trade bill MORE (D-Mont.) before his cabinet nomination, plans to resign from his House seat before he is sworn in.

Fifteen Democrats joined Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingHillicon Valley: Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner deal in blow to DOJ | Dems renew push to secure state voting systems | Seattle reverses course on tax after Amazon backlash | Trump, senators headed for cyber clash | More Tesla layoffs Trump, senators headed for clash on cyber policy For .2 billion, taxpayers should get more than Congress’s trial balloons MORE (I-Maine) and all of the Republicans in voting for Zinke: Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownPence knocks Sherrod Brown in Ohio, boosts Renacci On The Money: Trump imposes B in tariffs on China | China blasts 'fickle' Trump, promises payback | Trump to name consumer bureau director next week Bank regulator faces backlash over comments on racism MORE (Ohio), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsHillicon Valley: Trump hits China with massive tech tariffs | Facebook meets with GOP leaders over bias allegations | Judge sends Manafort to jail ahead of trial | AT&T completes Time Warner purchase Dem senator: Trump Jr. may have given 'false testimony' about meeting with foreign nationals Overnight Finance: House sends Dodd-Frank rollbacks to Trump | What's in the bill | Trump says there is 'no deal' to help ZTE | Panel approves bill to toughen foreign investment reviews MORE (Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms Todd Young in talks about chairing Senate GOP campaign arm The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Primary results give both parties hopes for November MORE (Ind.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichOvernight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets Energy commission sees no national security risk from coal plant closures The Hill's Morning Report — Trump: `A very great moment in the history of the world’ MORE (N.M.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump announces North Dakota rally for June 27 Opioid treatment plans must include a trauma-informed approach Dems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms MORE (N.D.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineGOP senator: Family separation policy 'inconsistent' with American values RNC mum on whether it will support Trump-backed Corey Stewart GOP Senate candidate accuses Chris Cuomo’s father of anti-Semitic remarks in heated exchange MORE (Va.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinManchin touts support for Trump border wall in new ad Dems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms White House was in talks with Manchin to lead Veterans Affairs: report MORE (W.Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Hill's Morning Report — Can the economy help Republicans buck political history in 2018? Dems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms Dems say Obama return from sidelines is overdue MORE (Mo.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyTrump faces Father’s Day pleas to end separations of migrant families Trump’s trusted diplomat faces daunting task with North Korea Dems best GOP as Scalise returns for annual charity baseball game MORE (Conn.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDem senator questions NHTSA on vehicle fires Hillicon Valley: States defy FCC on net neutrality | Facebook gave Chinese companies access to user data | Genealogy service hacked | 26 states get election cyber funds Commerce panel leaders demand answers from Facebook over data sharing MORE (Fla.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release Senate committee targets Pruitt scandals in spending bill Overnight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets MORE (N.M.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerWray defends FBI after 'sobering' watchdog report Top Dems: IG report shows Comey's actions helped Trump win election Dem senator: Trump at G-7 made me ‘embarrassed for our country’ MORE (Va.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDems seek to seize on data privacy as midterm issue Hillicon Valley: DHS gets new cyber chief | White House warns lawmakers not to block ZTE deal | White nationalists find home on Google Plus | Comcast outbids Disney for Fox | Anticipation builds for report on FBI Clinton probe Senate confirms Trump Homeland Security cyber pick MORE (Ore.).

- Updated at 11:15 a.m.