Landrieu Keeps Hold on Nomination of Kempthorne, Energy Appointees

Despite the Bush administration's request last week for $2.2 billion in additional funds for hurricane protection along Louisiana's coast, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) said she would continue to block the nomination of Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne for secretary of Interior, as well as the nominations of other appointees who would influence the federal government's energy and offshore production policies.

In response to the administration's action, Landrieu removed her confirmation holds on "most of the presidential political appointments that I placed three weeks ago," except for Kempthorne and other energy-related appointees. "Those remaining holds will be lifted when the administration takes a stand in favor of offshore revenue sharing," allowing coastal states that permit drilling off their shores to keep a greater share of the royalties from offshore production.

Currently, coastal states get less than 1% of the revenue from oil and natural gas drilling off their shores, while the federal government gets the bulk of the money. Landrieu is seeking a revenue-sharing plan similar to that for drilling-friendly interior states, which are allowed to keep 50% of the royalties from energy production within their state boundaries.

Landrieu in early April placed a series of holds on Bush nonmilitary and nonjudicial appointees "until 'significant progress' was made securing White House commitments to levee protection and coastal restoration."

In March, offshore drilling foe Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) also pledged to block Kempthorne's nomination if he supports additional leasing in the natural gas-rich area known as Lease Sale 181 in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Nelson is scheduled to meet with Kempthorne on Wednesday, the day before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources' confirmation hearing, to discuss the issue. Based on the outcome of their discussion, Nelson will decide whether to place a hold on Kempthorne's nomination, said Nelson spokeswoman Bridget Walsh.

Sen. Mel Martinez, the junior senator from Florida and member of the Senate energy panel, is expected to press Kempthorne about his views on drilling in the eastern Gulf at Thursday's hearing.

Landrieu's hold, plus the potential Nelson hold, would prevent Kempthorne's nomination from going to the full Senate for a vote. The Senate would need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster to Kempthorne's nomination.

Aside from the holds, Kempthorne is likely to be extended "a lot of senatorial courtesy" by the upper chamber, given that he had served six years as a U.S. senator prior to being elected governor of Idaho in 1998.

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