Trump pick for Interior heads toward Senate confirmation

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation MORE’s nominee to take over as head of the Interior Department cleared his first hurdle Thursday, winning approval from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in a 14-6 vote.

Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump's trial a major test for McConnell, Schumer Poll: West Virginia voters would view Manchin negatively if he votes to convict Trump Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week MORE (W.Va.) and Sen. Angus KingAngus KingCollins walks impeachment tightrope The Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two Congress struggles on rules for cyber warfare with Iran MORE (I-Maine) joined the panel's Republicans in backing David Bernhardt's nomination.

ADVERTISEMENT

“He’s clearly qualified and has the experience to serve as secretary," Manchin said at the vote. "He knows the Interior inside and out, that may be a blessing to some and may be a concern to others. Based on the assurances he has given, I’m prepared to vote on him this morning.”

Bernhardt needs support from only a majority of senators in a floor vote to be confirmed as Interior's next secretary.

Committee Chairwoman Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Senate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum MORE (R-Alaska) called Bernhardt “well qualified” for the position.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill Bezos phone breach escalates fears over Saudi hacking Top intel office fails to meet deadline to give Khashoggi report to Congress: report MORE (D-Ore.), however, argued Bernhardt's ties to energy interests would make him no better than his predecessor, Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeEurope deepens energy dependence on Russia Overnight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks MORE, who left the department amid a series of controversies.

“Every single senator should be interested in restoring honor and integrity to the office of the Interior secretary. Unfortunately, the Bernhardt nomination … doesn’t even come close,” Wyden said.

During last week’s confirmation hearing for Bernhardt, Wyden criticized what he called the former energy lobbyist’s long list of conflicts of interest. Bernhardt carries with him a card listing the names of all companies that would pose a conflict to his government work.

“I think you are so conflicted. I think that even if you are confirmed you will have to disqualify yourself from so many matters I don't know how you will spend your day," Wyden said last week.

As Interior chief, Bernhardt would have to recuse himself from meetings with those companies if they have business before the agency.

Wyden also raised concerns at the confirmation hearing about a report that Bernhardt intervened as deputy secretary in the release of a Fish and Wildlife Service report that found two pesticides were likely deadly to several endangered species.

Bernhardt last week told senators he had made the decision to not release the findings after consulting with lawyers.

The committee also voted on the nomination of Susan Combs to serve as assistant secretary of the Interior in the Office of Policy, Management and Budget. She was previously appointed by Trump to serve as acting assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks.

Wyden and Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoRestlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Democrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim Former Hawaii Democratic governor calls on Gabbard to resign MORE (D-Hawaii) were the only two senators to vote against her nomination proceeding to the Senate floor.

Combs has angered some environmentalists with her remarks concerning Endangered Species Act protections, which she once likened to “incoming Scud missiles.”

Updated at 12:27 p.m.