The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly confirmed Rep. Ryan K. Zinke to head the Interior Department, putting in place a secretary who’s poised to reverse Obama-era restrictions on energy development on public lands.
The confirmation of Mr. Zinke, a Montana Republican and former Navy SEAL, was held up by Democratic leaders in the Senate for over a month. While Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, voted against him and urged his colleagues to do the same, 16 Democrats ultimately voted in favor of Mr. Zinke.
He was approved by a vote of 68 to 31.
Mr. Zinke’s confirmation is a major step forward for President Trump’s so-called “America first” energy plan, which includes rolling back federal red tape that hampered oil-and-gas drilling and coal mining on federal lands over the past eight years.
Energy industry groups, eager to see a major shift away from the policies of the Obama administration, lauded the vote and said Mr. Zinke will challenge the notion that economic growth and energy production are incompatible with protecting the environment.
“While often pitted against each other over the last eight years, these efforts to support the economy and protect our environment work hand in hand every day across the country,” said Barry Russell, president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “As a conservationist from a Western energy-producing state, Congressman Zinke appreciates the need to manage our nation’s lands and waters while implementing multiple-use policies that enable a variety of activities from conservation and recreation to job development and energy production.”