Manchin Questions DOI Nominees About Separating Ideologies From Law Enforcement And Sexual Harrassment At National Park Service

May 2, 2019

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considered the nomination of two Department of Interior nominees. Senator Manchin, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pressed Mr. Daniel Habib Jorjani, nominated to be the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior, on his commitment to separating his own ideologies from enforcing laws passed by Congress. 

“Laws do not change unless we in Congress amend them so the Department’s interpretation of those laws should not change wholesale every time an administration changes. Congressional intent is Congressional intent. I’m troubled by the fact, Mr. Jorjani, that seven of the eight legal opinions you have issued as Acting Solicitor overturn well-reasoned legal opinions of previous solicitors. So my question would be, what weight do you afford the opinions of previous solicitors?” Senator Manchin asked. “In all honesty, the observance that I have is your ideology overtook the rule of law in the previous opinions.” 

“The previous sets of opinions are important, they provide guidance to us,” Mr. Jorjani said. “There’s a long process for reviewing opinions and what the catalyst is for it. In this case, we received a directive from the Chief of Staff to the President on every reg, and any interpretation of statutes of general applicability. So, as part of that process, actually before I became the Principle Deputy Solicitor, those were withdrawn and then we did a multi-month process involving senior career lawyers as well as consultation through the inter-agency process as well as DOJ before we rolled out that specific opinion.”  

Senator Manchin also asked Mr. Mark Lee Greenblatt, nominee to be Inspector General of the Department of the Interior, about what he will do to eliminate the systematic sexual harassment and gender discrimination that has been uncovered within the National Park Service. 

“Several years ago, the Inspector General’s office found systematic sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the National Park Service which seems to be of epidemic proportion. Three years later this is still a serious problem, as you know. Will you commit to giving that problem the attention that it needs and what’s your thought process on how we can cure it,” Senator Manchin asked.

“That is absolutely something I am committed to addressing. In other Inspector General Offices (OIG), sexual harassment doesn’t quite fall in the purview of the OIG. I’m happy to report that the Interior Department does a proactive view with respect to the OIG engaging on some of those issues. That doesn’t mean that we can do all of those cases. But when it rises to a pervasive level that impacts the operations of the entity, that’s when we get OIG involved. And that’s where we have been proactive and adding real value. I look forward to continuing to do just that,” Mr. Greenblatt said.

To watch the hearing in full click here