Senate confirms ex-lobbyist David Bernhardt to lead Interior

FILE - In this March 28, 2019 file photo, David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist, speaks before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at his confirmation hearing to head the Interior Department, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Senate has confirmed Bernhardt as the Interior secretary. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate has confirmed acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to lead the department on a permanent basis, despite complaints by Democrats that the former oil and gas lobbyist used his federal position to benefit former industry clients.

The Senate voted 56-41 to approve Bernhardt's nomination to oversee the country's public lands and resources. He succeeds Ryan Zinke, who resigned in January amid a series of ethics investigations.

Bernhardt represented energy and agricultural industries until President Donald Trump picked him in April 2017 to be deputy secretary.

Bernhardt says he's complied with all ethics laws and rules. But Democrats and environmental groups accuse him of using his federal post to shape regulations and legislation in favor of oil and gas interests and other former clients.