Freedom Caucus co-founder leaving House after unsuccessful governor bid this year …
(Ari Natter, Bloomberg News) A ‘Tea Party’ congressman who campaigned for Donald Trump in the final weeks of the 2016 election is being considered to replace outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, according to two people familiar with the situation.
Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, who will be leaving the House after an unsuccessful gubernatorial run earlier this year, has been talking with senior White House officials about leading the agency since news of Zinke’s departure was first reported by Bloomberg News on Saturday, according to one of the people, who asked for anonymity to discuss nonpublic deliberations.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Zinke, a former House member from Montana, will leave the Trump administration at the end of the year amid mounting federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest. Trump said he would nominate a new chief this week for the agency, which has a budget of $11 billion with about 70,000 workers and responsibility for overseeing drilling, grazing and other activities on public land. The National Park Service, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Land Management are units of the department.
Labrador, a native of Puerto Rico who co-founded the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has served on the House Natural Resources Committee since coming to Congress in 2011. His record of voting for rollbacks of environmental and public lands protection has drawn complaints from environmental groups, including the League of Conservation Voters, which gave him a 4 percent lifetime score on its National Environmental Scorecard.
Other candidates to be interior secretary include Republicans who could aid Trump in a re-election bid two years from now, such as outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who lost his re-election bid in November and has experience in navigating difficult western energy and water issues.
Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who currently heads the House Natural Resources panel, is also being discussed as a contender for the job. Bishop, who plans to retire from Congress in 2020, “has an interest in the opportunity to pursue the Trump administration’s continued leadership on energy dominance, reorganization of BLM, and access to public lands,” spokeswoman Kristina Baum said by email.
Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who was considered by Trump to lead the Interior Department in 2016, is not interested in the job, according to a person familiar with the situation.
(With assistance from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.)
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