Trump pick for Interior heads toward Senate confirmation

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate 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) ManchinPolitical purity tests are for losers Former coal exec Don Blankenship launches third-party presidential bid Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda MORE (W.Va.) and Sen. Angus KingAngus KingOvernight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows by six members Senators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing MORE (I-Maine) joined the panel's Republicans in backing David Bernhardt's nomination.

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“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 MurkowskiKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Impeachment hearings don't move needle with Senate GOP Hillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day MORE (R-Alaska) called Bernhardt “well qualified” for the position.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Democrats raise privacy concerns over Amazon home security system Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny MORE (D-Ore.), however, argued Bernhardt's ties to energy interests would make him no better than his predecessor, Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight 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 Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics 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 HironoOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Senate eyes sending stopgap spending bill back to House | Sondland delivers bombshell impeachment testimony | Pentagon deputy says he didn't try to block official's testimony Pentagon No. 2 denies trying to block official's impeachment testimony Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack 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.