WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) today disputed the Administration's nominee for the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior, David Bernhardt.
Senator Cantwell took to the senate floor voicing strong opposition to David Bernhardt’s confirmation citing potential conflicts of interest, past efforts on behalf of oil, gas, mining other clients undermining protections for the environment, and his previous tenure at the Department during a time that was plagued scandals.
Senator Cantwell noted President Trump's promise to the American people to “drain the swamp” stating, “With Mr. Bernhardt’s nomination I’m afraid he’s not draining the swamp. He’s actually helping to fill it. The nominee’s private sector experience as a registered lobbyist for companies whose main public policy focuses are in the Department of Interior creates the appearance of a conflict of interest, and the nominee wants to help lead the department that he’s tried to sue four times.”
Senator Cantwell voiced concern over Bernhardt’s past at the Department of the Interior stating, “Mr. Bernhardt served at the highest levels of the Department of Interior, at a time when the Inspector General called it a “culture of ethical failure.”
“I hope that the agency isn’t running fast towards somebody who just won’t recuse themselves, in hopes they will get someone who will do the bidding of these interests and not take into consideration the complexity, the legal structure, and the challenges that dealing with these issues take. “
The Senator also pointed to recent reports that Bernhardt is still advising clients on matters before the Department and Congress. “In fact as late as March of this year Mr. Bernhardt’s firm was submitting invoices to Westlands for lobbying charges which itemized expenses. Documents show he was engaged in regular contact with congressional offices working on legislation and in efforts to inform Administration policy, at the same time he was serving on the Trump transition team.”
“I remain concerned about his record on behalf of these corporations at the expense of the environment, his tenure at the Department of the Interior, and many other challenges,” said Senator Cantwell.
Watch the video of Sen. Cantwell’s floor statement here.