The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved President Obama’s pick to lead the Interior Department, REI Chief Executive Sally Jewell, sending the nomination to the full Senate for consideration.
At a time when several Obama Cabinet nominees have faced high hurdles during the confirmation process, Jewell sailed through the committee with a 19-3 vote, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Republicans Mike Lee of Utah, Tim Scott of South Carolina and John Barrasso of Wyoming opposed her nomination.
Barrasso had questioned Jewell doggedly during the confirmation hearing a few weeks ago about her service on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association, an environmental group, an affiliation he cited in his decision to reject the nomination.
Like her predecessors at Interior, Jewell, 58, will have to balance competing demands on public lands for conservation and resource exploitation. During her confirmation hearing, Jewell hewed to administration talking points about achieving balance among various demands on public lands and pursuing an “all of the above” energy policy. She also underscored the growing focus on climate change during Obama’s second term.
Jewell is a true newcomer to Washington. Interior secretaries have traditionally been Western politicians, in part because most federal lands are in the West. But Jewell’s roots are in private industry and conservation. Born in Britain and raised in Washington state, Jewell worked as an engineer in the oil industry after college before going into banking and then moving to REI, which she helped build into a $2-billion-a-year company. At the same time, she has worked on land conservation efforts and served on the board of trustees of the National Parks Conservation Association.