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Trump pick for Interior heads toward Senate confirmation

President TrumpDonald TrumpLil Wayne gets 11th hour Trump pardon Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Trump expected to pardon Bannon: reports 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) ManchinMcConnell, Schumer fail to cut power-sharing deal amid filibuster snag Josh Hawley has a new publisher — that's good news This week: Tensions running high in Trump's final days MORE (W.Va.) and Sen. Angus KingAngus KingAngus King warns of 'grave danger' of Trump revealing classified information Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate 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 MurkowskiMcConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment FDA chief says he was 'disgusted' by Capitol riots, considered resigning The Memo: Biden prepares for sea of challenges MORE (R-Alaska) called Bernhardt “well qualified” for the position.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats call on Biden to immediately invoke Defense Production Act Yellen champions big spending at confirmation hearing Biden pick for Intel chief vows to release report on Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Ore.), however, argued Bernhardt's ties to energy interests would make him no better than his predecessor, Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Interior finalizes plan to open 80 percent of Alaska petroleum reserve to drilling | Justice Department lawyers acknowledge presidential transition in court filing | Trump admin pushes for permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Trump administration pushes for grazing permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19 after two days of meetings with officials: report 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 HironoDemocratic senator raises concerns about inauguration security Senate Democrats urge Google to improve ad policies to combat election disinformation Senate gears up for battle over Barr's new special counsel 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.