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Zinke Wins Senate Confirmation to Lead Interior Department

One day after President Trump addressed Congress and urged lawmakers from both parties to work together, the Senate displayed some bipartisanship and voted Wednesday to confirm Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as the next secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI).

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 68-31 for the confirmation. Sixteen Democrats -- including Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT) -- crossed party lines to support Zinke.

"I am hopeful that Rep. Zinke's confirmation will mark the start of a new era for the DOI that is defined by greater cooperation with Congress, the states, and the local residents affected by its decisions," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

The energy industry also applauded Zinke's confirmation.

"I am confident that Secretary Zinke will follow through on President Trump's campaign promises to put America's onshore and offshore energy resources back in the game," said American Energy Alliance President Thomas Pyle.

"In recent years, leaders at the DOI have disregarded the multiple-use concept for federal lands and have been outright antagonistic toward oil, gas, and coal leasing. By opening more areas for energy exploration, President Trump and Secretary Zinke have a great opportunity to deliver more jobs, higher wages, and much-needed economic growth to the American people."

Zinke was first elected to the House in 2014 and won a re-election bid this year. He was elected by his GOP colleagues to serve on the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. He has been a supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline and voiced opposition to some of the regulations imposed on the oil and gas industry.

On the other hand, Zinke also has been a strong protector of public lands in the West.

Earthjustice’s Drew Caputo, a vice president for the environmental group, urged Zinke not to overturn one of President Obama's last acts in office: granting national monument status to the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. State leaders and supporters of the oil and gas industry have vowed to work with the Trump administration in reversing the designation.

"As long as he serves in this role, the people of the United States will look to Secretary Zinke to safeguard public lands, reject fossil fuel extraction that jeopardizes our climate, and protect imperiled wildlife," Caputo said.

Zinke earned a degree in geology from the University of Oregon in 1984 and joined the military two years later. He retired as a U.S. Navy SEAL commander in 2008.

In January, Zinke’s nomination passed the muster of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on a 16-6 vote.

Other Democrats who voted in favor of Zinke's nomination were Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Sen. Angus King (I-ME), who caucuses with the Democrats, also voted for Zinke. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined with 30 other Democrats in voting against the confirmation. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) did not cast a vote.

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