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Trump said to pick drilling advocate Cathy McMorris Rodgers for Interior

Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Susan Walsh/AP)
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Susan Walsh/AP)

Donald Trump has chosen Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), a member of the GOP congressional leadership and a strident advocate for increased oil and gas drilling on federal lands, to head the Interior Department, according to multiple news reports.

McMorris Rodgers, the highest ranking Republican woman in the House of Representatives, would take the helm of a 70,000-person agency that manages hundreds of millions of acres of federal lands, including the National Parks system. She would be charged with implementing Trump’s plan to aggressively roll back many of the environmental restrictions the Obama administration has placed on federal lands, which the president-elect wants to open up for substantially more drilling and mining.  

In picking the congresswoman, Trump has chosen an ally who has been loyal to him politically and who shares his view that big energy companies should have more access to the lands under federal stewardship. McMorris Rodgers has voted against environmental protections repeatedly, earning her a score of zero in 2015 from the League of Conservation Voters. She supports opening the Atlantic Ocean for drilling, and has fought efforts to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal land. She also voted to make it easier to drill in Native American lands.

If confirmed, McMorris Rodgers would continue the tradition of a Westerner running the Interior department, which reflects the vast acreage of federal land in the West. While she has not had a high profile in environmental issues, McMorris Rodgers has been a trusted adviser to Trump, serving as one of the co-chairs of his transition team and working with Trump’s daughter Ivanka on childcare policies.

She is a polished and steadfast leader of the GOP caucus in the House, where she is often a point person to represent the party before the media. Her strong ties in Congress and experience brokering deals, rallying fellow Republicans, and staying on message will help Trump build bridges on Capitol Hill and project an orderly pursuit of his agenda.

But if confirmed, McMorris Rodgers will find herself at the center of the nation’s most contentious environmental battles, facing an organized resistance that already is mobilized to fight Trump’s plans. 

The Sierra Club immediately declared her appointment unacceptable.

“Selling off our public lands to the highest bidder and opening them to drilling, mining and logging is not in the best interest of our country,” said a statement from Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, “but that is exactly what Rep. McMorris Rodgers has voted to do over and over again.”

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