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Senate Confirms David Bernhardt As Next Interior Secretary

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The Senate voted 56 to 41 to confirm David Bernhardt as the next secretary of the Interior Thursday despite Democrats’ attempts to postpone the process.

Bernhardt passed a procedural vote Wednesday night, an indicator of how the eventual vote would stand, with 56 votes in favor and 41 against. 

Several Democrats joined Republicans in supporting President Donald Trump’s nominee to oversee the vast majority of federal lands and waters in the U.S. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, represents the coal-heavy state of West Virginia and was one of the few to defect from the Democratic consensus.

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Fellow Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico called for their colleagues to vote against Bernhardt during Wednesday’s procedural vote and allow more time to investigate allegations of ethics violations.

Wyden called on the Senate to delay any action on Bernhardt’s confirmation after the “ethics horror show” that happened under former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. While at Interior, Zinke came under more ethics investigations than the four previous Interior secretaries combined.

The investigations into Zinke have yet to reveal evidence of significant ethical violations. The Justice Department is investigating the former Interior secretary for possible criminal conduct related to a roughly decade-old Montana land deal.

Critics hounded Bernhardt and his allies in the Senate over the Interior secretary’s list of conflicts of interest. Bernhardt reported 21 potential conflicts of interest to the federal government in August 2017.

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GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado accused Democrats of using an openly partisan double standard to judge Bernhardt during the then-nominees committee hearing. Democrats, including Wyden, praised former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell as a talented “multitasker” for her prior experience working in industry.

“If the same standards had been applied to Sally Jewell, she wouldn’t have made it out of committee,” Gardner said. “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.”

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