President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE is expected to name Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersHillicon Valley — Biden's misinformation warning Lawmakers call on tech firms to take threat of suicide site seriously, limit its visibility Lawmakers focus on bridging broadband divide highlighted amid pandemic MORE (R-Wash.) to lead the Interior Department, a source close to the transition team told The Hill Friday.
Trump will tap McMorris-Rodgers, a five-term Republican who represents eastern Washington and is the chair of the House GOP Conference, to lead the department. The New York Times first reported the news.
McMorris Rodgers is a vice chair of Trump’s transition team and the highest-ranking woman in GOP leadership. She formally met with Trump on Nov. 20. Her office declined to comment Friday.
If confirmed by the Senate, McMorris Rodgers would lead the 70,000-employee, $12 billion Interior Department, which manages federal lands for both preservation and energy and mineral development, controls offshore drilling and oversees national parks.
She would be Trump’s point person on public lands energy development, something Trump said he wants to expand as president.
Trump opposes the Obama administration’s moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands and, in a September speech, proposed a “top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama administration,” an effort that would include the Interior Department.
Trump’s transition website said he “will encourage the production of [fossil fuels] by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters.”
Trump, though, has professed a view of federal land ownership that is relatively moderate compared to some conservatives.
In a speech this week, he said he would follow the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt and “conserve and protect our beautiful natural resources for the next generation including protecting lands.”
During his presidential campaign, he said he “[doesn’t] like the idea” of transferring federal lands to states because “I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold."
McMorris Rodgers is a booster of hydropower and has pushed legislation to tackle forest fires in the West.
She has voted in favor of expanding fossil fuel development on public lands and in federal areas off-shore. She opposes efforts to change the royalty rates on federal coal mining, something pushed hard by Obama’s Interior Department, and voted for a GOP budget that would allow the sale of public lands to mining companies.
In the past, she has introduced legislation to require congressional approval before the president can designate a national monument, and a bill directing the Bureau of Land Management to release public lands it holds that it has deemed not suitable for wilderness status.
In a 2012 speech to the Society of American Foresters, McMorris Rodgers said, “it is no coincidence that many of the counties with the highest unemployment rates in the country are those which are surrounded by federal forests,” and said the federal government should “undertake a comprehensive review of their land ownership policies.”
“By removing lands from private ownership — and thus, from the local municipal tax rolls – the government stifles locally-driven development and makes rural communities more dependent on Washington, DC,” she said then.
If the Senate confirms McMorris Rodgers to lead Interior, she will be the second straight Washington state native to lead the department, succeeding outgoing Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellBiden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten key air pollution standards | Despite risks to polar bears, Trump pushes ahead with oil exploration in Arctic | Biden to champion climate action in 2021 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children | Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham | Schwarzenegger backs Nichols to lead EPA MORE.
Her nomination will continue the trend of a western state native leading Interior, a tradition tied to extensive federal land ownership West of the Mississippi River.
McMorris Rogers’ relationship with Trump has morphed over time.
McMorris Rodgers voted for Trump in Washington’s primary election in May, well after he became the GOP’s nominee, but in a Facebook post then, she wrote, “Did I cast my ballot with enthusiasm? Not exactly.”
She condemned Trump for past statements he made about women and people with disabilities, and reiterated those concerns after the October reveal of a tape in which he bragged about groping and kissing women without consent.
McMorris Rogers, a mother of three, convened a meeting with Trump’s daughter Ivanka in September to discuss childcare issues.
And she accepted a position on his transition team, telling Fox News this week that she was “really thrilled“ to work on “the team that is identifying the best and the brightest for President-elect Trump’s consideration.”
Her nomination will set off a scramble for her No. 4 position in House leadership. Because she is the only woman in leadership right now, there will be a desire from Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow Kevin McCarthy sold his soul to Donald Trump On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood Stopping the next insurrection MORE and leadership to see the GOP conference elect another woman to fill her spot.
Names floated for leadership in the past include Republican Reps. Mimi Walters (Calif.), Mia Love (Utah), Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackBottom line Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion Democrats take heat from party | More states sue Purdue over opioid epidemic | 1 in 4 in poll say high costs led them to skip medical care Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee MORE (Tenn.), Lynn Jenkins (Kan.) and Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksThe tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Bold leadership is necessary to curb violence against youth Here are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act MORE (Indiana).
- Scott Wong contributed
- Updated at 1:52 p.m.