Ken Salazar signs off from the US Interior department

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar spent his last few hours in office Thursday sitting across a table from a House Approriations subcommittee promoting and defending the proposed 2014 budget he won’t get a chance to administer.

On his last day in office, Salazar returned to Congress, where he began his career in DC as a US Senator in the class of 2005, a class that included his friend Barack Obama. This time, he was on the House side, sitting in the cozy basement hearing room where the subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Activities holds court.

Salazar’s affection for the subcommittee was in evidence Thursday, as he praised the bipartisan way in which Representative Mike Simpson, Republican-Idaho, and Ranking Member Jim Moran, Democrat-Virginia, have handled deliberations over the Interior Department’s budget. Salazar noted that the rest of Congress could learn from the way the subcommittee conducts its business.

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To be sure, the committee has been tough on past Interior budgets and has never handed Salazar as much as he has wanted. But the agency has been able to secure funding to beef up its inspections of offshore oil and gas drilling operations and to fund the expansion of safety-related efforts both offshore and onshore.

In his last actions before his successor, Sally Jewell, is sworn in, Salazar praised the committee members and made a special point of thanking both the Republican and Democratic staff members for the collegial way they worked with his own budget staff.

Then he directed his last words as a Washington insider, at least for now, to the entire committee.

“I hope to see you, never as a lobbyist, but always as a friend,” he said.


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