Senate panel reschedules vote on President Trump's Interior and Energy nominees

Rick Perry, left, is Republican President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Energy Department. Ryan Zinke has been tapped to head up the Interior Department. Photos: Gage Skidmore and Gage Skidmore

Republican President Donald Trump will be without two of his Cabinet picks for at least another week after a delay in the Senate.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana), Trump's nominee to lead the Interior Department, and former Texas governor Rick Perry, the president's choice for the Energy Department, were on their way to being confirmed this week. But the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources abruptly canceled a vote that was to take place on Tuesday.

The panel is now planning to consider both nominees on January 31. If approved, they can then be considered by the full Senate.

By this time in his first term, Barack Obama already had his Interior (Ken Salazar) and Energy (Steven Chu) picks approved. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, had his Energy choice (Spencer Abraham) approved and his Interior pick (Gale Norton) was near confirmation before the end of January.

Trump's team, however, has been slowed due to complaints from Democrats about conflicts of interests and qualifications. But since Republicans control the Senate, they are expected to eventually push through all of the Cabinet choices.

Zinke, an adopted member of the Fort Peck Tribes, has not encountered much resistance and has won praise from fellow lawmakers and tribal leaders, particularly those from Montana, for his stances on sovereignty, self-determination and treaties. If confirmed, he would oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians and the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Perry, on the other hand, has faced questions about his background. When he ran for president, he said he would eliminate the Energy Department, but he told lawmakers that he regretted taking that position.

"If confirmed, I will enter this role excited and passionate," Perry said at his January 19 hearing.

Perry also has strong ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline. He holds financial stakes in two companies building and financing the project and was paid to sit on the boards of both firms.

Perry has vowed to stay away from matters affecting the companies for at least two years. But his stance doesn't matter much because Trump has already directed his administration to "expedite" consideration of the final portion of the pipeline in North Dakota, near the home of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Notice:
Business Meeting to Consider Nominations and Other Committee Business (January 31, 2017)

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