Dem senator puts hold on Trump nominees over offshore drilling plan

Dem senator puts hold on Trump nominees over offshore drilling plan
© Greg Nash

Florida Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonFlorida lawmakers blocked from entering facility holding migrant children Transportation Department watchdog to examine airplane cabin evacuation standards Hillicon Valley: Supreme Court takes up Apple case | Senate votes to block ZTE deal | Officials testify on Clinton probe report | Russia's threat to undersea cables | Trump tells Pentagon to create 'space force' | FCC begins T-Mobile, Sprint deal review MORE (D) is blocking quick confirmation of three Trump administration nominees, saying he hasn’t gotten sufficient assurances regarding offshore drilling off Florida’s coasts.

Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown said the senator sent Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Senate panel sets Pruitt hearing | Colorado joins California with tougher emissions rules | Court sides with Trump on coal leasing program Interior 'disappointed' by billboards protesting uranium drilling in Grand Canyon Court rejects greens’ climate case against federal coal mining MORE a letter last week seeking details on Zinke’s pledge to remove Florida from consideration for drilling.

But Zinke hasn’t responded to that letter, prompting the hold late Wednesday on three Interior Department nominees.

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Brown said Nelson “will keep the holds in place until Zinke rescinds the draft five-year drilling plan published in the Federal Register on Jan. 8 and replaces it with a new draft plan that preserves the current moratorium in the eastern Gulf of Mexico beyond 2022 and fully protects all of Florida’s coasts from the threat of both offshore drilling and seismic testing.”

After a brief meeting last week with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), Zinke said Florida’s waters would be taken out of the drilling plan.

Nelson has been fighting for years to stop drilling near Florida. He is suspicious of Zinke’s decision and accused him of doing it as a gift to Scott, who is likely to run for Nelson’s Senate seat, an accusation the Trump administration has denied.

A hold all but prevents the Senate from voting on the nominees. It stops Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWarren on family separation policy: Trump is ‘taking America to a dark and ugly place’ Senate GOP tries to defuse Trump border crisis Schumer rejects GOP proposal to address border crisis MORE (R-Ky.) from getting “unanimous consent” to skip the 30 hours of debate that Senate rules technically require for each nominee, but that is waived in most cases, except some Cabinet officials.

The three nominees at issue are Susan Combs for assistant secretary for policy, management and budget; Ryan Nelson for solicitor and Steven Gardner for director of the Office of Surface Mining.

All three were approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year.

Due to objections by Democrats, they were not held over to 2018 and instead sent back to the White House. But President TrumpDonald John TrumpConservatives express concern over House GOP immigration bill Poll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary Trump defends Nielsen amid criticism over family separations MORE renominated each of them this month, so the Energy and Natural Resources panel will have to vote on them again before they can proceed.