Interior nominee Ryan Zinke heads toward confirmation in Senate

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana). Photo: Gage Skidmore

It's taken longer than expected but the Interior Department is slated to get a new leader.

The Senate on Monday evening cleared Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana) for a final vote as Secretary of the Interior. He is one of the last remaining Cabinet nominees of President Donald Trump waiting to be confirmed.

"You know, we could have done this on January 20," Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) said on Monday. "You see, Ryan Zinke is not a controversial nominee. He is a westerner. He is a Montanan whom we need serving as our next Secretary."

Unlike several other Trump nominees, Zinke already has support from key Democrats, including Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), a former chairman and former vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. In Monday's roll call, 15 Democrats and 1 Independent joined 51 Republicans in clearing the nomination for a final vote.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Ryan Zinke Senate Confirmation Hearing

During his time in Congress, Zinke has supported tribes on water rights, taxation, health care, federal recognition, economic development, energy development, violence against Native women, and sovereignty matters. He has vowed to work with tribes on a government-to-government basis should he be confirmed.

"Sovereignty should mean something," Zinke said at his confirmation hearing on January 17. "When we say a nation is sovereign, it should have weight."

As head of Interior, Zinke would oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education, the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

Trump has yet to nominate someone to serve as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. Prior presidents have made announcements for that job in April of their first terms.

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