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Political Notebook

Senate panel strongly backs choice to be Interior chief

Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York discussed gun laws with families from Newtown.

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York discussed gun laws with families from Newtown.

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s nominee to lead the Interior Department, Sally Jewell, cleared her first hurdle on the way to nomination Thursday, winning approval of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a large bipartisan margin.

Only three of the panel’s 22 members — Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, Mike Lee of Utah, and Tim Scott of South Carolina, all Republicans — ­opposed the nomination.

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Barrasso said Jewell had given incomplete answers to verbal and written questions and was not clearly qualified to head the sprawling Interior ­Department.

Obama nominated Jewell, 57, currently chief executive of Recreational Equipment Inc. in Seattle, to replace Ken Salazar, a former Democratic senator from Colorado.

The committee’s senior Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, announced her support for Jewell Thursday morning after a meeting on Wednesday in which Salazar told her the agency would reconsider a decision to block construction of an airport access road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in a remote corner of southwest Alaska.

He committed Jewell to ­follow through on the pledge.

Other Republicans on the committee said Jewell’s willingness to seek a range of opinions on the Alaska wilderness issue and other natural resources questions was sufficient to win their support.

NEW YORK TIMES

Biden, Bloomberg team up in push for stricter gun laws

NEW YORK — Vice President Joe Biden joined Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and some families of the victims in the Newtown, Conn., school shootings Thursday to push for new federal gun laws, just days after Senate Democrats dropped an assault weapons ban from a gun-regulation package they plan to consider next month.

Biden urged lawmakers to “think about Newtown” as they considered stricter gun regulations.

“For all those who say we shouldn’t and can’t ban assault weapons, for all those who say the politics are too hard, how can they say that?” Biden said at City Hall. “You take a look at those 20 beautiful babies, and what happened, and those six teachers and administrators.”

Many gun-control advocates had made bans of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines the centerpieces of their legislative agendas in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. The gunman, Adam Lanza, carried high-capacity ammunition magazines and used a military-style assault weapon to fatally shoot 20 first graders and six adults at the school, before he killed himself.

But despite efforts by Biden and President Obama and emotional testimony from families of the victims, support for the bans failed to materialize in Congress amid resistance from gun-rights groups.

Bloomberg, who has spent millions of dollars of his personal fortune in support of stauncher gun regulations, said he will continue to push for an assault weapons ban.

NEW YORK TIMES

Security adviser for Reagan searched for ties to Sudan

WASHINGTON — The FBI has searched the apartment of former Reagan administration national security adviser Robert McFarlane for evidence of whether he lobbied on behalf of the government of Sudan in violation of federal law.

A search warrant shows agents seized items this month including handwritten notes about Sudan and White House documents with classification markings up to Top Secret.

It is against the law for Americans to do business with Sudan because of its alleged support for terrorism and human rights violations, among other things. Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, is charged with genocide and other crimes.

— ASSOCIATED PRESS

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