- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked President Obama’s nomination for the No. 2 post at the Interior Department, the latest in a series of partisan clashes over personnel as the White House tries to advance its ambitious agenda.

Republicans objected to the nomination of David Hayes as deputy interior secretary because of the department’s recent decision to revoke oil- and gas-drilling leases near several national parks in Utah.

The Republican opposition was led by Sen. Robert F. Bennett of Utah, who came out against the Hayes nomination after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar canceled the lucrative drilling leases in his home state.

The nomination stalled in a near party-line 57-39 votes, as Democrats came up three votes short of the 60 needed to end a Republican filibuster.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said the hold-up of the Hayes nomination was another example of how Republicans have become “the party of no.”



He said Republican holds on nominations - there are currently 18 nominations held up by GOP objections - reflect the minority party’s commitment to restoring President George W. Bush’s policies and impeding Mr. Obama from assembling his team.

“They long for those good old days under President George W. Bush,” Mr. Durbin said. “They are going to resist change, resist this president, hold up as many people as they can [people] that he needs to be a success.”

Republican Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine voted to confirm Mr. Hayes, while three Democrats missed the vote: Sens. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry, both of Massachusetts.

Mr. Kennedy is battling brain cancer and has been absent for much of the session. The reason Mrs. Mikulski and Mr. Kerry skipped the vote was not clear.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, switched his vote to “no” in a tactical move that preserved his ability to bring the nomination up for a vote at a later time.

Democrats control 59 of the chamber’s 100 seats, with one seat vacant pending the outcome of the contested election in Minnesota.

Mr. Salazar, who until this year was a member of the Senate from Colorado, called the outcome “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,” Mr. Salazar said. “We will deliver that change.”

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