Alaska senators eye good relationship with Interior as Senate confirms Bernhardt

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- The U.S. Senate confirmed David Bernhardt to lead the Department of Interior Thursday in a 56-41 vote. Bernhardt has been the acting secretary since the resignation of Secretary Ryan Zinke last December.

Bernhardt worked in the Interior Department during the George W. Bush administration as solicitor and is a former oil lobbyist. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) voted yes to confirm Bernhardt, he says because he thinks his leadership can only mean good things for Alaska.

Sullivan says Bernhardt has been involved in Last Frontier issues since Sullivan was commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Sullivan thinks Bernhardt will be of service when it comes to lands issues, like the controversial road to King Cove that was recently blocked in federal court.

“The Secretary of Interior is extremely knowledgeable about Alaska. As a matter of fact when I was DNR Commissioner, he was one of the attorneys we hired to help us on some lands issues so he’s very knowledgeable,” said Sullivan.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also thinks Bernhardt is the right person to lead the department at this time.

“We’ve got a partner in the Department of the Interior as the secretary, who knows and understands what it means to be a state that has significant public lands. Who knows and understands what it means to be a state that has considerable resources,” said Murkowski.

Every Republican voted yes. Three Democrats and one Independent joined them; Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Senator Angus King (I-ME).