11.17.17

Senate Western Caucus Urges Prompt Confirmation of Interior Nominees

U.S. SENATE —Chairman of the Senate Western Caucus, U.S. Senator Steve Daines (MT), was joined by 15 Senators in leading members of the Senate Western Caucus in urging U.S. Senate leadership to prioritize confirmation of nominees important to the West.

In a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, the Senate Western Caucus drew attention to the languishing nominations of Joseph Balash to be Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Susan Combs to be Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, Ryan Nelson to be Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior and Brenda Burman to be Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. On the same day as the letter was sent, the Senate confirmed Burman?.

“As you proceed in scheduling the next nominations to bring to the floor, we urge you to make these well-qualified nominees a top priority,” the members wrote. “A fully staffed DOI is essential to implementing the Senate’s bipartisan objectives for responsible energy and natural resource development, stewardship of our public lands, and creating good paying jobs that will benefit not only western states, but the U.S. economy as a whole.”

The letter is also signed by Sens. John McCain (AZ), Jeff Flake (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Sullivan (AK), Mike Enzi (WY), Mike Crapo (ID), James Risch (ID), Dean Heller (NV), Mike Lee (UT), John Barrasso (R-WY), Cory Gardner (CO), Orrin Hatch (UT), John Hoeven (UT), John Boozman (AR), and Bill Cassidy (LA). 

Assistant Secretary, Land & Minerals Management 

  • Joseph Balash, Trump Nominee                   114 days (pending)
  • Wilma Lewis, Obama Nominee                     93 days
  • Rebecca Watson, Bush Nominee                   9 days 
  • Robert Armstrong, Clinton Nominee             41 days

Solicitor, Department of the Interior

  • Ryan Nelson, Trump Nominee                      106 days (pending)
  • Hilary Tompkins, Obama Nominee                78 days
  • William Myers, Bush Nominee                      50 days 
  • Drew Days, Clinton Nominee                        51 days

Assistant Secretary, Policy Management & Budget

  • Susan Combs, Trump Nominee                     128 days (pending)
  • Rhea Suh, Obama Nominee                          28 days
  • Patricia Lynn Scarlett, Bush Nominee             59 days
  • Kenneth Apfel, Clinton Nominee                    27 days

Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation

  • Brenda Burman, Trump Nominee                   140 days
  • Michael Connor, Obama Nominee                   31 days
  • John Keys, Bush Nominee                             28 days
  • Doris Meissner, Clinton Nominee                    38 days

The letter is available below and to download HERE: 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell                               The Honorable Charles Schumer

Majority Leader                                                           Minority Leader

U.S. Senate                                                                 U.S. Senate

Washington, DC 20510                                              Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senators McConnell and Schumer, 

As members of the Senate Western Caucus, we urge you to continue to prioritize executive nominations important to the west. Specifically, we would like to bring to your attention four more well-qualified nominees to the Department of the Interior (DOI), reported favorably out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources by a voice vote, and ask that you promptly confirm them. 

  1. President Trump nominated Joseph Balash, a native of North Pole, Alaska, to be Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management on July 25, 2017. Prior to Mr. Balash’s service as Chief of Staff to Senator Dan Sullivan (AK), he was Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over more than 140 million acres of upland and submerged lands, containing some of the nation’s most critical energy and mineral resources. Mr. Balash’s western state-based experience as Commissioner and his federal experience in the Senate makes him uniquely qualified for this position at a time when responsibly developing our nation’s resources and creating jobs are among our highest priorities. His nomination has been pending for 114 days, longer than his predecessors in the past 25 years.
  1. Susan Combs, a rancher from Big Bend, Texas, was nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget on July 11, 2017. Ms. Combs has had a long and successful career both in business and in public service, including as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, as Texas’ Agricultural Commissioner, and as Texas’ Comptroller of Public Accounts. In her time as Comptroller, she successfully managed complex tax issues and streamlined bureaucracy to make it both more efficient and more accountable to taxpayers. Her proven management track record in the public and private sectors is crucial to making DOI more efficient and effective and helping ensure responsible stewardship of western lands. Her nomination has been pending for 128 days, longer than her predecessors in the past 25 years. 
  1. Ryan Nelson, a native of Idaho Falls, Idaho, was nominated to be Solicitor of DOI on August 2, 2017. Mr. Nelson has a breadth of experience in the public sector, having worked in all three branches of the federal government. He clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and served as Special Counsel for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, as well as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. His litigation and regulatory background on these issues that are of the highest importance to western states makes him ideally suited to DOI and he should be confirmed at once. His nomination has been pending for 106 days, longer than his predecessors in the past 25 years. 
  1. Brenda Burman of Arizona was nominated by the President to be Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) on June 29, 2017. Ms. Burman has in-depth experience in water issues that are important to western states, having previously served as the BOR Deputy Commissioner and DOI Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science under President George W. Bush. In addition to her government experience, Ms. Burman worked in the private sector in a number of western states, gaining first-hand experience in the challenges we face. Her background makes her an outstanding candidate to lead BOR in working collaboratively to tackle the complex water issues that face western states and she should be confirmed as soon as possible. If confirmed, Ms. Burman will be the first woman to lead the Bureau. Her nomination has been pending for 140 days, nearly 100 days longer than her predecessors within the past 25 years.

We urge you to make these well-qualified nominees a top priority for confirmation. A fully staffed DOI is essential to implementing the Senate’s bipartisan objectives for responsible energy and natural resource development, stewardship of our public lands, and creating good-paying jobs that will benefit not only western states, but the U.S. economy as a whole.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to working with you to further address initiatives important to the west.

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