Energy

Top Dem Holds Up Trump Nominees Over National Monuments Dispute

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin has held up the confirmation for four Trump administration nominees because Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke hasn’t met with Democrats to discuss the fate of some national monuments.

“Please let the secretary know that while my colleagues and I await his scheduling decision, my hold on Department of Interior nominees will continue,” Durbin, a Democrat, wrote to the Interior Department’s congressional relations office, reports The Hill.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump asked Zinke to review national monuments to see if any ran afoul of the Antiquities Act. Zinke sent his recommendations to the White House in August.

It was never made public, however, news outlets reported Zinke’s report recommended Trump shrink at least four national monuments, including the controversial Bears Ears monument in Utah that was created in the final year of former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Trump told GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah in late October he planned on approving Zinke’s recommendation for Bears Ears, raising expectations the monument would be shrunk. Utah Republicans opposed the monument, which they said eroded proper land management and local property rights.

“I was incredibly grateful when the President called this morning to let us know that he is approving Secretary Zinke’s recommendation on Bears Ears,” Hatch said in a statement.

Four Democratic senators, including Durbin, requested a meeting with Zinke in late October to discuss the recommendations. No meeting has taken place, so Durbin is preventing key Interior Department appointees from getting congressional approval.

Durbin is the only lawmaker to disclose their hold on the four Interior Department nominees, though other Democrats may also be holding up the process as well. All four nominees got unanimous support from the Senate energy committee.

Zinke asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get the four nominees through, but Durbin’s hold makes that difficult.

“These nominees have been forced to wait significantly longer than either the Obama or Bush administration’s first-term nominees,” Zinke wrote to McConnell on Wednesday.

So far, only Zinke and Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt are the only high-level political appointees to get Senate approval.

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