Rep. Ryan Zinke Confirmed As Interior Secretary

by Chris Tognotti
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Following the conclusion of a vote by the U.S. Senate, yet another of President Trump's cabinet appointments got through on Wednesday morning ― Rep. Ryan Zinke has been confirmed as interior secretary. Zinke, 55, is the 15th member of Trump's cabinet to be confirmed, and the first-ever member of Congress from the state of Montana to be nominated or confirmed to run the Department of the Interior.

Zinke cleared his confirmation vote by a final tally of 68-31, a solidly bipartisan outcome considering the consternation and resistance Democrats have put up against some (but not all) of Trump's cabinet picks. Zinke served as a Navy SEAL for 22 years, from 1986 until 2008, and is the first former SEAL to ascend to leading a department of the federal government.

Zinke is, by all accounts, an avid supporter of oil drilling and mining for natural gas ― better known as fracking, a process which can trigger earthquakes in typically quake-free areas, just one reason it's a highly controversial form of energy extraction. Zinke supports lifting restrictions on both fracking and offshore oil drilling, and his ardently pro-extraction positions have spurred concerns from progressives and environmentalists that he may move to authorize public lands for such activities.

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Reports suggest that Zinke may never have landed the job without the involvement of the president's son, Don Jr. The eldest of the Trump children, Don Jr. is well known as an enthusiastic hunter ― there's a pretty good chance you've seen the grisly photo of him showing off a severed elephant tail ― and he reportedly warmed to Zinke during the hunt for a nominee, and put in a good word with his dad. If that sounds like a strange selection process for a cabinet position, well, you might as well get used to it. In the Trump administration, the influence of the president's adult kids apparently can't be overlooked.

Zinke takes over from acting interior secretary Kevin Haugrud, who's been serving as acting secretary since Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a warning following Zinke's confirmation, cautioning that he should "concern every lover of our great and grand national parks." It's worth noting, however, that Schumer was either unable or unwilling to convince more of the Democrats to vote against Zinke ― he won the support of 16 Democratic senators, led by their most conservative member, West Virginia's Joe Manchin.