Salazar rips ‘bitter obstructionism’ as GOP senators reject Interior deputy

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar blasted Republican senators Wednesday for voting down his pick for deputy secretary.

The Senate’s 57-39 vote fell three votes shy of the 60 votes required to thwart a threatened Republican filibuster against the nomination of David Hayes, an environmental lawyer who served as Interior’s No. 2 for the last three years of the Clinton administration. It was the first time the Senate has blocked an Obama nomination.

Salazar, a Democratic senator from Colorado until January, mounted last-ditch negotiations on Tuesday with GOP opponents to the Hayes nomination, led by Sen. Bob Bennett. The Utah Republican has fought the Hayes nomination to protest Salazar’s cancellation of oil and gas leases approved by the Bush administration.

Here’s the statement issued by Salazar after the vote in uncharacteristically strong terms from the typically affable, Stetson-wearing cabinet secretary:

“This was a tired vote of bitter obstructionism. It may be uncomfortable for some to watch us have to clean up mess after mess –- from corruption to lawbreaking — that is the previous Administration’s legacy at Interior, but to cast a vote against such a qualified and fine person is the height of cynicism.

“We have answered every question and worked to find common ground on difficult issues, but the American people rightfully want change from the Obama Administration and from the Department of the Interior. We will deliver that change. The American people will know, once again, that the Department of the Interior is wisely managing their treasured landscapes and their natural resources on their behalf.”