President has right to choose his people

Republicans in the U.S. Senate secured enough votes Wednesday to block the nomination of David Hayes to be second in command at the Department of Interior.

That’s too bad, because Republicans are using the same tactic they frequently deplored when Democrats employed it to reject nominations made by President George W. Bush. They are blocking the nomination of a well-qualified person in order to express their displeasure over broader policies at the Department of Interior and the Obama administration.

We certainly understand those broad concerns. Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah led the fight to stop Hayes’ confirmation because he objects to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s decision to revoke 77 oil and gas leases in Utah earlier this year.

Bennett is not alone. Many people in Colorado are concerned about that decision, as a letter on this page today demonstrates. We are among those worried that Salazar will do something similar with already-approved leases for the Roan Plateau west of Rifle.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined Bennett in the effort against Hayes because she objects to Salazar’s decision to delay offshore drilling leasing approved by Bush. We have long argued that more offshore drilling is critical for the nation’s energy future.

But those are policy issues that should be separate from Hayes’ nomination. As we have said repeatedly regarding both Republicans and Democrats, elections have consequences. The winners should have the right to choose the people they want to fill key positions, so long as they are fit for the job.

David Hayes served in the same position for which he is now nominated during the Clinton administration. Few people have disputed his qualifications or his fitness for the job.

Sen. Murkowski acknowledged that when she said, “This is not a personal matter, (not) anybody out to get Mr. Hayes, if you will.” She added, “This is really about what is happening within the department. All of these various actions within the Department of Interior, within a very short time period, cause great concern about the direction of our nation’s energy policy.”

So take those issues up in debate on an energy bill or in other forums. But Republicans should rethink their opposition to Hayes’ nomination. The tactic they are using to oppose him was wrong when Democrats used it against Bush nominees and it is wrong now.


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