Salazar confirmed in Cabinet spot |

Salazar confirmed in Cabinet spot

Kristen Wyatt
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Ken Salazar promised a more ethical, scientific Department of the Interior Tuesday after he was unanimously confirmed as secretary by the Senate hours after the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Salazar, a fifth-generation Coloradan and former rancher, leaves the Senate to join Obama’s Cabinet. He’ll be replaced by Denver Public School Superintendent Michael Bennet, a fellow Democrat tapped by Gov. Bill Ritter to fill the remaining two years of Salazar’s Senate term.

Bennet will likely be sworn in as senator Thursday, said his spokesman, Matt Chandler.

Salazar was joined by about 20 family members Tuesday as he and five other Cabinet members were confirmed on a unanimous voice vote a little more than three hours after Obama took the oath of office. Salazar resigned his Senate seat upon confirmation.

Salazar spent the afternoon and evening in receptions and was to attend the Western Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center, said spokesman Matt Lee-Ashley.

Bennet was in Washington for the inauguration and also planned to attend the Western Inaugural Ball, Chandler said.

Salazar now oversees some 500 million acres of public land, including national parks. The Department of the Interior protects wildlife and endangered species and oversees development of energy resources.

Salazar sent reporters a statement promising to eliminate ethical lapses at the department. Employees have been accused of rigging bids, partying with oil company employees and exerting political influence on endangered species decisions. At Salazar’s confirmation hearing, one senator pleaded with him to “drain the swamp.”

Salazar said Tuesday that cleaning up the agency would be his first job.

“My first priority at Interior is to lead the department with openness in decision-making, high ethical standards and respect for scientific integrity,” Salazar said.

Salazar also repeated promises to put high emphasis on energy, especially renewable energy. The agency has more than 67,000 employees and a $15.8 billion federal budget.

His departure means that fellow Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, in office less than a month, is Colorado’s senior senator.

Bennet will have to stand for re-election in 2010.

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