West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin took a different tone than many of his Democratic colleagues on news President Donald Trump nominated David Bernhardt to head the Interior Department.
While prominent Democrats immediately came out against Bernhardt’s nomination, Manchin stressed the Senate’s “obligation to advise [and] consent on the President’s nominees.” Trump announced Bernhardt’s nomination Monday. (RELATED: Trump Announces His Pick To Head The Interior Department)
Senators have an obligation to advise & consent on the President’s nominees. Just as I do with all nominees I will examine David Bernhardt’s record & qualifications to be Secretary of Interior. I look forward to meeting w/him & to having him appear before @EnergyDems committee
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) February 5, 2019
Manchin is the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which will hold Bernhardt’s confirmation hearings. Manchin’s openness to Bernhardt’s nomination could be a tepid sign of support.
Bernhardt, currently Interior’s acting secretary, doesn’t technically need Manchin’s support to secure his confirmation, but it would further secure it in case any Republicans defect. Manchin voted to confirm Bernhardt as Interior’s deputy secretary in 2017. He was one of four Senators to cross the aisle and vote with Republicans.
Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Angus King of Maine, an Independent, also voted to confirm Bernhardt.
Donnelly and Heitkamp lost re-election bids in 2018. King sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
In contrast, some of Manchin’s Democratic colleagues on the Senate energy committee didn’t hold back their opposition to Bernhardt.
Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono called Bernhardt “another scandal-plagued fox guarding the henhouse.” Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden said, “Bernhardt has no place serving as the trustee of our most precious natural resources.” Both Hirono and Wyden serve on the Senate energy committee.
David Bernhardt checks all the boxes for another corrupt Trump cabinet nominee:
Former oil lobbyist
Undermining environmental protections to benefit corporate polluters
Had a front row seat to scandals at Bush’s and Trump’s Interior Departments
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) February 4, 2019
Environmentalists oppose Bernhardt’s nomination. Environmentalists say Bernhardt is a “walking conflict of interest” because of his past lobbying for companies that are regulated by or deal with Interior.
Others worry Bernhardt will be more effective at implementing Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda. Indeed, Bernhardt would not only see the rolling out of new offshore drilling plans but also plans to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy exploration.
A long Washington résumé suggests that Bernhardt would happily continue to carry out the Trump administration’s war on public lands and federal waters.
We will hold him accountable and block any efforts to put our natural heritage at risk. https://t.co/m58ShKWE6G
— NRDC (@NRDC) February 4, 2019
Conservative groups and Republicans support Bernhardt’s nomination, seeing him as a qualified replacement for former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who left the Trump administration in January.
“It’s a brilliant move. No one is more experienced and I look forward to working with him,” Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Natural Resources, said in an emailed statement.
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