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Senate Republicans Block Obama Nominee for Interior Post

By Paul Kane

Updated, 1:10 p.m. ET: At a press conference after the vote, Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) vowed to bring the nomination back to the floor next week when all Democrats would be present. "With their votes next week, he will be approved," Durbin said.

Original Post

On a party-line vote, Senate Republicans blocked President Obama's nominee to be deputy Interior secretary amid a fight over the agency's new rules on oil and gas drilling, the first administration appointee to be turned back on a floor vote.

The nomination of David J. Hayes, a natural resources lawyer with vast experience in federal lands issues, fell just short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and move to a final vote, only the second time this year that the GOP held together on a major action to block the president's agenda or his nominees on a filibuster vote.

Hayes received 57 votes, but he has more support than that. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) switched his vote to 'nay' in a parliamentary move that allows him to bring up the nomination again under fast-track rules should the administration reach an accord with Republicans. In addition, three Democrats who would support Hayes were absent -- Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), John Kerry (Mass.) and Barbara Mikulski (Md.).

Republicans acknowledged beforehand that the vote was not a rejection of Hayes, who already served for two years as deputy interior secretary in the Clinton administration, but instead was a statement of opposition to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's cancellation earlier this year of leases for oil and gas drilling in Utah wild lands. Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) rallied the opposition to Hayes, suggesting that the eleventh-hour lease auction for drilling -- which happened with just six weeks remaining in the Bush administration -- was already agreed to and should have gone ahead as planned.

Salazar, who was in the Capitol lobbying his former Senate colleagues, called the GOP action "a tired vote of bitter obstructionism."

"We have answered every question and worked to find common ground on difficult issues, but the American people rightfully want change from the Obama administration and from the Department of the Interior. We will deliver that change," Salazar said in a statement.

Hayes won the support of two Republicans, Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.). Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) voted 'aye', with his new colleagues.

It's unclear whether Reid will schedule another vote on Hayes at a time when all Democrats can be present. If every senator voted as he or she first voted, Hayes would win 61 votes and be confirmed.

But that calculation relies on Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer and rarely votes, and Kyl, the No. 2 GOP leader who would come under intense party pressure to vote no if it meant the difference between Hayes winning confirmation or not.

By Paul Volpe  |  May 13, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Next: GOP Staffs Up on Senate Judiciary Committee


First destroy the country then block the rebuilding, is anyone surprised?

Posted by: hairguy01 | May 13, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Too little to late from the Senators.
Bye Bye corrupt idiots.

Hello Independent Party replacemants with no political ties or war chests. Repulicans and Democrats jumping ship need not apply.

Time for the people's voice to out weigh the Hill and Obamaland.

The people are sooooo done with politicians not listening to them...enmasse.

Posted by: dottydo | May 13, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

The American people support domestic drilling for natural gas and oil.

Restore the Utah leases.

Posted by: NeverLeft | May 13, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Why isn't Mikulski at work? MD is right next door.

Primary her.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | May 13, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

These are the same Republicans that regardless of the ineptitude of Alberto Gonsales, the deceit and dishonesty of Judge Biby,and other unqualified jokers, were insistent in their demand that President Bush deserved to have his nominees approved by the Senate. I hope that this is a lesson learned by the democrats that if they are in the same position as the republicans they pay them back triple.These same shameless brutes that wanted to use their so called nuclear option to get their way.It is time harry Reid show he has some balls and stick it to them.

Posted by: samiaelsberesford | May 13, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Americans do not support leases on nautral gas and oil.

Do not restore the Utah leases.

Any last minute Bush hijinxs should be crushed until Cheney has been arrested for treason.

Posted by: dganderson13 | May 13, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

You're kidding, this guy has preformed the job before and they rejected him? They even admit it was out of principle instead of the guy's experience. After all that tough talk about experience vs change and it turns out it's the GOP that craves the change deep down.

Posted by: Crucialitis | May 13, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Repulicans are not only hypocrites but they apparently have no idea what to advocate except to take an opposite position from Obama. They should be reconstitued as the "Nobama" Party, and then quietly fade away as the obsolete aholes they have proven to be...

Posted by: cmaexecutive | May 13, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

It seems this about a rich oil companies inability to receive the go ahead to trash the environment in pursuit of more easy money. Who are these people representing, anyway- the citizens that voted them into office, and their best interests, or the small handful of rich industrialists that specialize in trashing the environment for their own enrichment? These "representatives" of the people must be getting something from these oilmen to go against the best interests of their constituents by eradicating nature's method of purifying water by a long system of streams, flowing down into lakes that provide freshwater reserves for drinking. What is it that these representatives are doing for their electorate aside from simply not being democrats? That is simply not enough anymore. We need a viable third party in America very, very badly.

Posted by: davideconnollyjr | May 13, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

It's not about qualifications, it's ideological payback.

The pro-Torture Party of No continues to keep America from healing the wounds of decades of Republican policy disasters. They light the house on fire, block the fireman from saving it and then accuse them of wasting water.

Why do they hate America?

Posted by: thebobbob | May 13, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

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