Senate panel approves five Interior, Energy nominees after delayed vote

Senate panel approves five Interior, Energy nominees after delayed vote
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A Senate panel has approved five of President Trump’s nominees for senior roles in the Interior and Energy departments after a delayed vote.

The approval from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee occurred during a brief meeting in the Capitol between votes in the upper chamber.

The committee had planned to vote on the nominees last week. But Chairwoman Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Collins skeptical of new ObamaCare repeal effort How Senate relationships could decide ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Alaska) postponed the vote, the same day that Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeInterior Dept recommends reducing Bears Ears, other protected land: report Give tribes real authority in Bears Ears National Monument Trump moving toward energy exploration in Arctic wildlife refuge: report MORE called her reportedly to threaten not to make numerous pro-Alaska decisions she wants because of her votes against repealing Obamacare.

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Both Murkowski and Zinke later denied that the Interior chief's call was a threat. The Energy Committee rescheduled the votes shortly after Zinke tweeted a photo of the two drinking beer.

Despite the quick votes, the nominees were not included in a group of dozens of confirmations that the Senate made later Thursday by unanimous consent.

The Senate started its August recess Thursday and will not return to session until Sept. 5.

The panel Thursday approved Doug Domenech, who led Interior’s transition effort for Trump, to be assistant secretary of insular affairs at the department by a 13-8 vote.

Domenech formerly led the Fueling Freedom Project at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which advocates for fossil fuels, and previously worked at Interior under President George W. Bush.

In his new role, he’ll oversee the federal responsibilities for American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.

He’ll also be responsible for relations with the three nations in “associated state” agreements with the United States: the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.

The remaining four nominees were approved by voice vote: Mark Wesley Menezes to be undersecretary at Energy, Paul Dabbar to be undersecretary for science at Energy; Brenda Burman to the Bureau of Reclamation at Interior; and Susan Combs to be assistant secretary of policy management and budget at Interior.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight MORE (I-Vt.) wanted to be recorded as a “no” vote for each of the nominees.

David Jones, nominated to be Energy’s general counsel, was on last week’s schedule for a vote with the other nominees, but he did not get approved Thursday. The committee is expected to take up his nomination after the August recess.