Editorial: Hilary Tompkins held hostage in Senate
"Here we are, over four months into the new administration and Senator Robert Bennett is still playing games with President Obama’s picks for high office. Mr. Bennett, a Utah Republican out to impress his state’s right-wing voters, has blocked the nominations of David Hayes as undersecretary of interior and HilaryChandler Tompkins as the department’s chief legal officer.

The Senate fell three votes short last week of bringing these nominations to a vote, which the two candidates would surely win. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, should try again as soon as possible. The Interior Department needs these nominees in place.

The ostensible issue is a decision by the interior secretary, Ken Salazar, to cancel 77 oil and gas leases in Utah awarded in the final months of the Bush administration. Mr. Salazar argued that many of the leases were rushed through without adequate environmental review and consultation with the National Park Service, whose lands could have been adversely affected by drilling on thousands of acres adjacent to three national parks.

Mr. Salazar’s decision was not unexpected. A Federal District Court judge, Ricardo Urbina, had already halted drilling on the Utah leases for many of the same reasons. And the interior secretary had made clear that he intended to take a more measured approach to energy development on the public lands and would review many of the leases authorized throughout the West under former President George W. Bush’s drill-now-drill-anywhere philosophy.

Still, Mr. Bennett exploded, putting a hold on the nominations of Mr. Hayes and Ms. Tompkins to try to get Mr. Salazar to reverse himself. But there is something decidedly more small-bore at work than a difference on energy policy: Mr. Bennett’s political survival."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Senator Bennett’s Hostages (The New York Times 5/19)

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