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U.S. Senate confirms Sally Jewell as America’s next Secretary of the Interior in 87-11 vote

Good news out of our nation’s capital for a change: The United States Senate, by a vote of eighty-seven to eleven, has voted to confirm Washington’s own Sally Jewell as America’s next Secretary of the Interior.

Jewell, a longtime Evergreen State business leader, is the outgoing chief executive officer of Recreational Equipment Incorporated, better known as REI.

“I am pleased that today the Senate took bipartisan action to confirm Sally Jewell as our next Secretary of the Interior,” President Barack Obama said in a statement released a few minutes ago by the White House. “With her extensive business experience, including her background in the energy sector, along with her lifelong commitment to conservation, Sally is the right person for this important job.”

“She brings an important mix of strong management skills, appreciation for our nation’s tradition of protecting our public lands and heritage, and a keen understanding of what it means to be good stewards of our natural resources.”

“Sally’s commitment to energy and climate issues, her belief in our strong government-to-government relationship with Indian Country, and her understanding of the inherent link between conservation and good jobs ensure that she will be an exceptional Secretary of the Interior,” the President added.

“I am very glad she is joining my team, and I look forward to her counsel on these important issues, as we continue to leverage our natural resources responsibly while protecting our nation’s treasures for generations to come.”

The board of REI also issued a statement praising the confirmation vote.

“Speaking on behalf of REI’s board and staff, we thank Sally for her seventeen years of service to the co-op and wish her all the best with her new adventure in the ‘other Washington’,” said Brian Unmacht, REI’s Interim CEO.

“Thanks to her outstanding leadership, REI is in strong shape and well-positioned for the future. As she did at REI, Sally Jewell will lead the Interior department with integrity, balance and wisdom.””

Jewell succeeds Colorado’s Ken Salazar as the fifty-first Secretary of the Interior.

The Pacific Northwest delegation voted unanimously to confirm Jewell. The roll call for our region was as follows:

Voting Aye: Democrats Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray (WA), Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR), Jon Tester and Max Baucus (MT), Mark Begich (AK); Republicans Jim Risch and Mark Crapo (ID), Lisa Murkowski (AK)

Voting Nay: None

Although no senators from the Pacific Northwest voted against Jewell’s nomination, eleven spiteful Republicans from outside the region refused to make Jewell’s confirmation vote unanimous. These Republicans were:

  • Barrasso (R-WY)
  • Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
  • Tom Coburn (R-OK)
  • Mike Enzi (R-WY)
  • Deb Fischer (R-NE)
  • Mike Johanns (R-NE)
  • Mike Lee (R-UT)
  • Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  • Tim Scott (R-SC)
  • David Vitter (R-LA)

Not surprisingly, these eleven are some of the U.S. Senate’s most conservative members. Five of them are from states east of the Mississippi River. Senators from the conservative Midwest and the swing Rocky Mountain states were mostly behind Jewell, with the principal exception of the Wyoming and Nebraska delegations.

Considering how often Republicans vote against President Obama’s nominees, it’s impressive that Sally Jewell garnered the votes of most of the Senate Republican caucus. Now that she is confirmed, she can assume her new position.

Agencies Jewell will oversee include the National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the recently-created Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Sally Jewell is the second Washingtonian to serve as Secretary of the Interior; the first was Richard Achilles Ballinger, who served under President Taft more than a century ago. (Ballinger was once the mayor of Seattle). One Oregonian (Douglas McKay) and two Idahoans (Cecil Andrus, Dirk Kempthorne) have also served as Secretaries of the Interior during the past century.