Senate Blocks Confirmation of Interior Nominee

Bennett wants answers before agreeing to confirm Hayes.

Senate Republicans blocked the confirmation Wednesday of David Hayes to be Deputy Secretary of Interior. Senator Robert Bennett, R-Utah, questioned the grounds for the Interior Department's withdrawal of 77 oil and gas leases in Utah, part of 128 leases approved by the Bush administration in its final month. He said Hayes is qualified for the department post, but he rallied Republicans to block the nomination until he receives answers to his questions about how the department made its decision to withdraw the leases.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., criticized Republicans for holding up Hayes' nomination and vowed that he will ultimately be confirmed. To keep the parliamentary path open to a second try, Reid voted against limiting debate. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who until this year was a Democratic Senator from Colorado, called the rebuff to Hayes a tired vote of bitter obstructionism.

Salazar, referring to scandals involving the Interior Department during the Bush administration, added that it may be uncomfortable for some to watch the cleaning up of mess after mess - from corruption to lawbreaking - that is the previous administration's legacy at Interior, but to cast a vote against such a qualified and fine person is "the height of cynicism."

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