Senators praise Salazar at confirmation hearing

As the saying goes, if you want an easy confirmation hearing, nominate a senator.

Ken Salazar’s confirmation hearing Thursday morning before his former colleagues on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee certainly proved that point.

Senators from both sides of the aisle praised the nomination of Salazar,  Colorado’s outgoing Democratic senator, to head the Interior Department in the Obama administration.

“I think your reputation as a consensus builder and centrist will serve you well,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said even though Salazar’s departure from the Senate will be a loss for Congress, it will be the country’s gain.

Matt Lee-Ashley, spokesman for the senator, said the committee and the full Senate are expected to formally vote on Salazar’s nomination shortly after Obama is sworn in as the next president.

Salazar pledged to be a thoughtful steward of public land and resources both on and offshore and be a prudent monitor of energy development.

“If confirmed, I will remain committed to helping our nation reduce its dangerous dependence on foreign oil,” Salazar said. “President-elect Obama believes, as I do, that our foreign oil dependence is a grave threat to our national security, our planet and our economy.”

Beyond energy, Salazar cited a 2006 report highlighting widespread ethical lapses at the Interior Department, and he pledged to clean up the agency.

“Our first and foremost task will be to restore the integrity to the Department of the Interior,” he said.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he was pleased to hear Salazar’s commitment to cleaning up the agency, particularly as an advocate for the use of science in decision making over the whims of lobbyists, such as Jack Abramoff.

“You now have to go in there and drain the swamp,” Wyden said, “and America has heard you say today, to your credit, that that is priority No. 1.”

Pressed by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Salazar said he plans to restore the Bureau of Indian Affairs to being a better steward of the services the federal government provides to American Indian tribes.

In matters closer to home, Salazar, pressed by his colleagues, pledged to continue to be open to oil shale development as part of the United States’ energy future, when it becomes safe and feasible.

Responding to questions from Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Salazar renewed his pledge to protect water, “the lifeblood” of the West.


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