Senate Committee Approves Zinke to Lead Interior

Nomination now heads to Senate floor for confirmation, requiring simple majority vote

By Tristan Scott
U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke. Beacon File Photo

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Tuesday approved Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke as President Trump’s nominee to lead the Secretary of the Interior.

Zinke, Montana’s lone representative, was reported favorably by a vote of 16–6 by the committee.

Chairman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, supported Zinke’s nomination along with the full slate of committee Republicans and four Democrats.

The nomination now heads to the Senate floor for confirmation, which requires a simple majority vote.

The committee on Tuesday also approved former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as Trump’s nomination for Secretary of Energy.

“I look forward to partnering with Congressman Zinke and Gov. Perry, who will lead departments that contribute significantly to our nation’s economic prosperity and national security,” Murkowski said. “I am eager to work with Congressman Zinke to restore balance and trust to the management of our public lands, and with Gov. Perry to address high energy costs in rural Alaska, among other challenges. Given the bipartisan support that both nominees received today, I am hopeful that their nominations will be taken up and confirmed quickly by the full Senate.”

Zinke, a Republican who was re-elected to the U.S. House in November, went before the committee on Jan. 17, enduring a four-hour hearing that touched on federal land transfers, climate change, Native American rights, sexual harassment against women in the National Park Service, and energy and natural resource extraction on public land.

The Interior Department has responsibility for energy leases on millions of acres of federal lands and waters around the U.S., as well as for conservation of national parks and forests.

Montana U.S. Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, issued a statement of support for Zinke.

“I am pleased to see Congressman Zinke’s nomination move forward,” he stated. “I look forward to working with him because of his public commitment to protect our outdoor economy, honor our trust responsibilities to Native Americans, and keep our public lands in public hands.”

Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican, called the confirmation “an historic opportunity for Montana.”

“I have known Ryan since 1979 and I know, once confirmed, Ryan will be a strong advocate for our public lands and will help unleash American energy,” Daines said. “He has tenaciously worked on behalf of Indian country in the House, representing Montana’s 12 federally recognized Indian tribes and the Little Shell Tribe and I know he will remain committed to bringing prosperity to their communities.”

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, said he looks forward to working with Zinke to ensure public lands, natural resources and recreation are protected.

“The strength of Montana’s economy is tied to our public lands, outdoor recreation, tourism, and natural resource industries, as are countless jobs for hard-working middle-class families,” Bullock said. “I look forward to working with him to ensure that Montanans’ bests interests are reflected in Washington, DC.”