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Republicans Block Interior Department Pick

Republicans have blocked President Obama's selection of environmental lawyer David Hayes as Ken Salazar's deputy at the Department of the Interior.

The Senate vote on Hayes' nomination for the #2 post at the Interior Department came to 57-39, three votes short of the 60 needed by Democrats to invoke cloture, the Associated Press reports.

The opposition to Hayes, which was led by Sen. Bob Bennett, was tied to Salazar's decision to cancel oil and gas leases near national parks in Utah, Bennett's home state.

"It's outrageous, and it's not fair to President Obama who deserves to have his deputies installed in key Cabinet departments," Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told CQ Politics. He described the objections from Republicans as "petty."

Added Salazar in a statement: "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."

Bennett said that members of the Senate understand that his objections are "about national energy policy and the minority's right to be heard."

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski also opposed the legislation. Per the AP, she cited concerns "about the administration's plans for oil and gas development and [objections] to recent reversals of several Bush-era rules on endangered species and mountaintop mining."