Senate Committee Advances Bernhardt Nomination

Senate Committee Advances Bernhardt Nomination

Photo credit: Tami Heilemann, Department of the Interior

Today, members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources voted 14 to 6 to advance the nomination of David Bernhardt as Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI). He has been serving as acting secretary since Ryan Zinke stepped down from the position at the end of last year. The next and final step is a full Senate vote to confirm his nomination.

During his confirmation hearing on Thurs., Mar. 28, Bernhardt expressed his determination to follow President Donald J. Trump’s emphasis on energy production—a DOI mission often ignored by Democrat appointees—while simultaneously maintaining and enhancing wildlife populations and their habitats. Bernhardt emphasized that accessing our country’s expansive energy resources does not have to be at the cost of conservation efforts.

Bernhardt faced intense questioning about his ethical standards and his ability to divorce himself from contracts involving former clients from his time as an oil-and-gas-industry lobbyist. In addition, silent protesters wearing masks from the “Creature of the Black Lagoon” sci-fi movie sat behind Bernhardt at the hearing, trying to associate him with the proverbial Washington D.C. “swamp” of corrupt career politicians. But Bernhardt's work ethic and honesty shined through. For example, when questioned about why he didn’t advance an issue regarding a toxin’s effect on the environment, he shot back that there are laws to follow and it required legal review.

It took security two hours to remove the protesters. It never occurs to people who make a mockery of an august Senate hearing that money raised from oil and gas leasing rights could be used to improve infrastructure for migrating game species; increase hunting, fishing and other outdoor opportunities; or even contribute to the national deficit.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) pointed out that while Bernhardt’s former lobbying for oil and gas companies comes under relentless scrutiny, former President Barack Obama’s Interior secretary, Sally Jewell, only received praise for her time as a petroleum engineer and outdoor industry executive. Jewell worked for General Electric making components for the Alaska pipeline, then Mobile and eventually became chief operating officer for REI.

Bernhardt grew up in rural Rifle, Colo. and spent summers on his grandparents’ Wyoming ranch. His lifelong love of the outdoors is evident in his continued love of hunting and fishing. Numerous sportsmen’s organizations wrote in support of Bernhardt, and the National Rifle Association fully backed the President’s pick to head the DOI

About the Author: Erin C. Healy is the associate editor of the NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum. She edited a lifestyle magazine on Cape Cod for 14 years and provided marketing services for her local guntry club prior to joining BLADE magazine and serving in the U.S. Army. She's an NRA Life Member, a National Wild Turkey Federation member and sends her Jack Russell Terriers to ground as often as possible.