Senate committee approves Obama’s nominee for Secretary of the Interior

President Barack Obama’s nominee to take over the U.S. Department of the Interior passed the first hurdle on the way to confirmation yesterday with a 19-3 bipartisan vote in her favor.

Sally Jewell, president and CEO of the Seattle-based outdoor equipment company Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), would take over for current Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who announced his decision to leave the agency in January.

Jewell has never served as an elected official, though she has twice been appointed to the University of Washington’s Board of Regents by the state’s governor, and she holds a number of positions on other corporate and non-profit boards, including the National Parks Conservation Association.

Before coming to REI, Jewell spent nearly two decades in the commercial banking industry with stops in Oklahoma and Colorado with Mobil Oil.

Her background is what makes her an appealing candidate, according to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who chairs the committee.

“She is going to give each member of this committee her ear and her expertise that comes from having managed to pack a host of professional careers — petroleum engineer, CEO and banker, to name just a few — into just one lifetime,” Wyden said.

Jewell also received strong conservative support as Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska — the committee’s senior Republican — also gave her support.

The full Senate has yet to set a date for full consideration of Jewell’s nomination, though sources report that it could be brought to the floor shortly after the Easter recess.

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