GOP Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner asserted that Democrats are applying a “double-standard” to Interior Secretary nominee David Bernhardt for his past work with the oil and gas industry.
Bernhardt sat in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Thursday for a confirmation hearing before his nomination heads to the full Senate for a vote, expected to come within the next few weeks. Democratic committee members raised concerns over Bernhardt’s wide array previous experience, focusing in on the nominee’s past representation of oil and gas interests.
“I think you are so conflicted that if you get confirmed you are going to have one of two choices: one, you are going to have to disqualify yourself from so many matters I don’t know how you are going to spend your day; or two, you are going to be making decisions that either directly or indirectly benefit former clients and regularly violating your ethics pledge,” Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden said during his time to question the nominee.
Bernhardt has also worked for a species conservation group and in the renewable energy industry, as well. (RELATED: Trump Announces His Pick To Head The Interior Department)
Gardner, who’s turn to question Bernhardt came directly after Wyden’s, slammed the Oregon senator and Democrats on the committee for treating Bernhardt’s experience with natural resource and conservation issues differently than past nominees.
“It’s unfortunate but not unexpected that the very qualities that make you a qualified candidate to serve as secretary are being portrayed by detractors as strikes against you,” Gardner told Bernhardt. “Instead of being portrayed as a competent lawyer who represents clients zealously and ably, you are painted as compromised and in pockets of industry.”
“If the same standards had been applied to Sally Jewell, she wouldn’t have made it out of committee,” Gardner continued. “I think there is an absolute double standard being applied here that private and public experience on one side of the aisle seems to be a benefit and private and public experience on the other side of the aisle seems to be a detriment.”
Jewell served as Secretary of the Interior under former President Barack Obama. Before the Senate voted 87-11 to confirm Jewell, she served in various industries, environmental and financial roles, including serving as CEO of Recreational Equipment Incorporated, one of the largest outdoor gear retailers in the U.S.
When Sally Jewell appeared before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2013, Democrats such as Wyden, who was then serving as the committee’s chairman, applauded Jewell’s wide-ranging expertise.
“With authorities ranging from managing national parks to offshore oil and gas development to protecting fish and wildlife, serving as Secretary of Interior is almost like an extreme sport for multitaskers,” Wyden said at the time, according to his testimony. “[Sally Jewell] knows a bit about multi-tasking from having been a petroleum engineer, a corporate CEO, a banker and a conservationist.”
“She’ll certainly need to draw on all these experiences and more to tackle the multiple responsibilities of the Secretary of the Interior,” Wyden said. “Probably the biggest challenge Ms. Jewell faces will be striking the right balance between the Secretary’s dual roles of both conserving and developing our resources.”
Wyden’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
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