The White House is backing off its plan to nominate Elizabeth Klein to be the deputy secretary of the Interior Department, marking the second nominee President Biden has been forced to backtrack on in just over two months in office.
A White House spokesperson told Fox News on Tuesday that Klein’s nomination was never officially submitted and that she will not be formally nominated to be the Interior Department deputy secretary. Biden’s presidential transition organization announced Klein as his pick for the post on Jan. 18.
The spokesperson added that the White House is hoping to announce more appointments to the department in the coming weeks.
President Joe Biden speaks during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)
A spokesperson for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told Fox News that the senator asked the White House to reconsider the Klein nomination due to her past stances on oil, gas and mineral development in Alaska.
“Senator Murkowski does her due diligence in vetting all nominees that come before the Senate,” the spokesperson said. “She had concerns with the nomination of Elizabeth Klein to serve as the Deputy Secretary of the Interior, including Klein’s demonstrated record opposing resource development in Alaska, which she raised with administration officials. Her ask is that the administration will put forth a nominee who understands and appreciates the value of responsible oil, gas, and critical mineral development, for our national and economic security.”
Biden’s nominee to be the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Neera Tanden, took herself out of consideration earlier this month after opposition from key senators. There were hearings on her nomination but the votes were abruptly postponed before she later withdrew from the process.
Klein previously worked for the Interior Department under Presidents Obama and Clinton and was most recently the deputy director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law.
That center, funded largely by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, drew controversy for paying the salaries of lawyers who were then essentially farmed out to Democrat state attorney general offices to pursue climate lawsuits.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks during the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee business meeting to vote on sending the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., to be Interior secretary, to the Senate floor in Washington on Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Politico first reported that Klein was no longer being considered to the Interior post.
Murkowski was a key vote for the White House in securing the confirmation of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Murkowski said at the time that she was excited to vote for Haaland to be the first Native American to run the Interior Department but that she had serious reservations about her policies.
Alaskans, Murkowski said, “are concerned by her opposition to resource development on public lands, including her opposition to key projects in Alaska and her questioning of the vital role that Alaska Native Corporations serve in our communities.”
“I am going to place my trust in Representative Haaland and her team, despite some very real misgivings,” Murkowski added.
Representatives for Murkowski did not immediately respond to Fox News’ questions on Tuesday morning about the Klein nomination. Neither did representatives for Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a Democrat from an energy state who also reluctantly supported Haaland.
Democrats theoretically could still have confirmed Klein without Murkowski’s help, as long as Manchin and all 49 other Democratic senators were on board. But it is not clear that Manchin, like Murkowski, would have been ready to support another very progressive nominee to a post that significantly affects his state.