House Democrats Scrutinize Nominees

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Without control of the Senate, Democrats will have little official power over the appointment process for several key cabinet posts, including Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Defense.

But don’t expect House Democrats to sit on the sidelines just because they can’t vote. Democrats may attempt to wield their majority in the House to scrutinize new nominees in parallel to an official confirmation process.

House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D., Ariz.) sent a letter last week to Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt requesting additional details about meetings on his public schedule. In the letter, Mr. Grijalva and Rep. T.J. Cox, the chairman of the Natural Resources Oversight subcommittee, wrote that Mr. Bernhardt may be altering his schedules to shield meetings with oil and gas lobbyists.

The House Democrats gave Mr. Bernhardt until Feb. 21 to respond to their request for more detailed calendar records. If the acting Interior Secretary does not meet that deadline, Mr. Grijalva said he would consider additional steps, including a subpoena, to obtain the information.

Any information that House Democrats can unearth about Mr. Bernhardt could play a role in the Senate confirmation process. Mr. Bernhardt will face questioning from Senate Democrats as part of his confirmation process.“We will outline areas that we feel merit some attention during the hearings,” said Mr. Grijalva. Mr. Grijalva also said the House committee would call Mr. Bernhardt to testify, though he said that would likely come after he faced the Senate.

With other potentially contentious confirmation fights facing the Senate, Democrats may increasingly weaponize their House majority for battles in the other chamber. House Democrats have already started digging into the president’s foreign policy, and any new information could play a role in the confirmation of a new Defense Secretary.

Write to Andrew Duehren at andrew.duehren@wsj.com.

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Washington Wire

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