Monday, November 13, 2017

Zinke's meeting with Senate Dems could ease vacancy woes

Michael Doyle, E&E News reporter

Some of the Interior Department's stalled nominations could start moving, perhaps soon, with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's new offer to confer with disgruntled Senate Democrats. Moving to resolve a standoff that has kept his Interior team shorthanded and prompted mutual finger-pointing, Zinke advised Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) yesterday that he is "happy to meet .. to discuss any issue within the Department of the Interior." Durbin, the Senate's assistant minority leader, had advised the department earlier this week that pending Interior nominations would remain on hold until the Interior secretary met with senators to discuss the Trump administration's controversial review of national monuments. In the world of Capitol Hill maneuvering, Zinke's offer of a sit-down could, nonetheless, be scored as a concession on his part. He had not previously responded to an Oct. 23 request for a meeting with Democrats, Durbin said. Durbin’s spokesperson, Ben Marter, said this afternoon: "That was probably harder than it needed to be, but the Secretary has now reached out to schedule a meeting and Senator Durbin is looking forward to it." "We request that you meet with us in Senator Durbin's office to explain any recommendations you have to alter existing national monuments and provide maps, documentation, and justification for the changes you are pursuing and what authority you will use to enact the changes," Durbin and the other Democrats had written in October. Until Zinke cooperated, the Democrats warned, they would "reserve the right to object to nominees for the Department of the Interior being confirmed." While Democrats are in the minority, they can slow things down with holds and other procedural tools. Pointedly noting that "none of the monuments under review" are in Durbin's home state of Illinois, Zinke in his letter yesterday itemized "all of the meetings and calls" he did have with the three Western Democrats who co-signed the Oct. 23 letter, as well as with others. Zinke recounted an Aug. 1 meeting with Oregon's Democratic senators, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, in Merkley's D.C. office to discuss the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, as well as two phone calls with Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to discuss the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Zinke did not specify how long these earlier calls and meetings lasted...more

 New Mexicans note: Udall & Heinrich were two of the four Senators who sent the 10/23 letter to Zinke, were two of the sixteen Senators who wrote Trump requesting no changes to two monuments in Utah, and Zinke's letter to Durbin mentions two phone calls from Udall concerning Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

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