The Senate confirmed President Trump’s latest nominee to head up the Department of the Interior by a vote of 56-41.
Three Senate Democrats — Martin Heinrich, N.M., Kirsten Sinema, Ariz., and Joe Manchin, W.V. — along with Independent Sen. Angus King, Maine, joined their Republican colleagues in voting for the nominee.
David Bernhardt will take over the job vacated by former Secretary Ryan Zinke in December and was confirmed despite vocal objections from Democratic lawmakers.
In addition to his record as an attorney and Interior Department official under President George W. Bush, Bernhardt also used to work as an energy lobbyist for a time. That portion of resume generated the bulk of his opposition from Democrats who claim that his supposed conflicts of interest disqualify him from the job.
Bernhardt’s confirmation hearing made a lot of headlines, not necessarily because of the nominee’s testimony, but because of an onlooker who wore a swamp monster mask in the chamber while it was happening.
Earlier this week, a group of over 50 House Democrats sent out a letter to their colleagues in the upper chamber, urging them to oppose Bernhardt’s nomination.
“As our climate crisis only grows in urgency and magnitude, it is more important than ever that we have a secretary who will defend and protect our natural resources and wildlife,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, Mr. Bernhardt has a lengthy record of advancing corporate interests at the expense of the environment.”
Before the vote, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., took to the floor to defend Bernhardt against the accusations.
“Over the course of the last couple months, the Washington, D.C., political smear machine has been working overtime to sully a good man’s name,” Gardner said while touting Bernhardt’s background at the Department of Interior and his ethics record.
“This is not about Mr. Bernhardt’s ethics or his integrity or his qualifications,” Gardner later added. “It’s about the fact that he has been and will be effective at implementing an agenda that the other side doesn’t agree with. Because they know he will be effective at protecting our great outdoors and our public lands.”