Sen. Tom Udall questioned two of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees about climate change and the president-elect’s financial conflicts during Senate hearings Wednesday. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is Trump’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Wilbur Ross is the nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. During Haley’s confirmation hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee, Udall questioned her position on climate change. Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and vowed to withdraw funding for United Nations climate programs. He has also said his administration would withdraw the U.S. from commitments made last year in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Udall asked if Haley thinks the U.S. should “maintain its leadership in the Paris Agreement in order to ensure that countries abide by their climate obligations?”
Last week, House Republicans announced members of the House Committee on Natural Resources for the 115th Congress. That list included Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico who had previously served on the committee from 2003 through 2009. In a statement from his office, Pearce said he plans to work on “restoring the health of our national forests, ensuring multiple use on appropriate federal lands, allowing Native American communities to grow and prosper, fighting for New Mexico water, preserving our national treasures and landmarks to safeguard them for future generations and more.”
NM Political Report asked Pearce’s chief of staff Todd Willens for more details about the congressman’s plans. Willens declined to provide additional information, but wrote in an email that “as the agenda for the committee reveals itself, the Congressman will update the public.”
This session, the committee is chaired by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, a proponent of private property and states’ rights and an opponent of any new national monument designations. Bishop announced last week the Republican members of the committee will “strengthen an aggressive agenda that we will pursue in partnership with a new administration.”
The committee, which includes 26 Republicans and 18 Democrats, considers legislation on a wide range of issues important to New Mexico, including public lands management, energy and mining, American Indians, fisheries, wildlife and irrigation.
Both U.S. senators from New Mexico voted this week against the first steps the Senate took to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. The Senate vote, held Thursday during early morning hours, changed procedural rules to allow majority votes on so-called reconciliation bills. Such reconciliation bills are limited to actions on the federal budget and are filibuster-proof, meaning they just need 51 votes from senators to pass instead of the usual 60 votes. Republicans plan to use this reconciliation process to repeal as much of the ACA as they can. Sens.
In Congress on Wednesday, Sen. Tom Udall questioned Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Secretary of State. Tillerson just resigned from his position as CEO of ExxonMobil. Udall questioned Tillerson about his position on climate change, asking: “While you were CEO of Exxon, the company website stated, ‘The risk of climate change is clear and the risk warrants action. Increasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere are having a warming effect. There is broad scientific and policy consensus that action must be taken to further quantify and assess the risks.’
On Monday, climate change protesters in downtown Albuquerque spoke out against four of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks. Rallying outside the offices of Democratic Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, protesters called on the two lawmakers to oppose the confirmations of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, former Governor of Texas Rick Perry as head of the Department of Energy and Montana congressman Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Organized by 350.org, a nonprofit organization focused on cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to avert the worst impacts of climate change, the rally in Albuquerque was related to national protests organized across the United States. Udall’s State Director Greg Bloom delivered a message to the crowd from the senator.
Each announcement by President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team about his picks for cabinet positions flares public interest. Whether it’s ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to lead the State Department or former Texas Governor Rick Perry as secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, the appointments provide insight into what the businessman’s presidency might mean for America and the rest of the world. Those appointments will have significant impacts here in New Mexico, which has 23 sovereign Native American tribes, millions of acres of federal lands and an abundance of natural resources like oil, gas, coal, copper and uranium. Not only that, but in the past five years, the state’s environmental regulations and agencies—which might have been able to hold the line against some of the incoming president’s policies—have been weakened during the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez. When it comes to issues like science and environmental regulations, high-level staff picks have long-term impacts on everything from pollution trends and energy policy to the rate at which the Earth’s atmosphere is warming.
New Mexico’s two U.S. Senators took aim at the latest cabinet level nominee announced by President-elect Donald Trump Tuesday. Sen. Martin Heinrich called former Texas Governor Rick Perry “utterly unqualified” to lead the Department of Energy, while Sen. Tom Udall said he was “disappointed” by the selection. Heinrich noted that those who work at the national labs in New Mexico are affected by the Department of Energy, and called the department “New Mexico’s economic lifeblood.”
Udall also mentioned that most of the DOE budget is earmarked for “its solemn and critical responsibilities regarding our nation’s nuclear security.”
Udall brought up Los Alamos National Lab and Sandia National Labs as the “crown jewels of our nuclear security complex,” as well as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeast New Mexico. “New Mexico is also home to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the nation’s only deep geologic facility that disposes of weapons-related nuclear waste, which is closed due to a radiological accident and still faces a difficult road to recovery,” Udall said. “To win the confidence of the American people and the Senate, Gov. Perry will need to demonstrate a strong understanding of these complex challenges and lay out a management vision to execute the difficult tasks before the department.”
After U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said he would not run to be the next governor, some Democrats released statements about potentially running for the state’s highest office. A spokeswoman for Hector Balderas, the state’s Attorney General, said he is considering a run for governor in 2018, and the mayor of Santa Fe says supporters have asked him to run. This is on top of U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who previously said she would decide whether or not to run for governor by the end of the year. Related: Tom Udall says he will not run for governor in 2018
Caroline Buerkle, who worked on campaigns for Balderas in the past, sent a statement to media Wednesday afternoon after Udall’s announcement that he would remain in the US Senate. “Attorney General Balderas is seriously considering a run for governor and has deep concerns about the future of our state,” Buerkle said.
U.S. Sen Tom Udall will not run for governor in 2018, and cited the election of President Donald Trump as one reason why. Udall said he will remain in the U.S. Senate, despite speculation earlier this year that he would throw his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination. His current Senate term ends in 2020. Udall said in a statement Wednesday that he was “very grateful” from the support of those who “personally urged” him to run for governor in 2018. Related: Days after election, attention turns to governor’s race
“While I firmly believe that I have the backing and the experience to properly address all these issues, I have determined, after consulting with my family, colleagues and constituents, that New Mexico will be better served by my remaining in the United States Senate,” Udall said.
Both U.S. Senators from New Mexico were quick to react to the Sunday news that President Obama’s administration would not approve an easement that would allow the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to move forward in its current proposed route. The Standing Rock Sioux Nation said while the proposed path did not cross their land, it would have brought the oil pipeline too close to the tribe’s lone source of water. The fight over placement of the pipeline led to members of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and other supporters holding high-profile protests for months. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall praised the decision, which requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider alternate routes for this portion of the pipeline.