Ryan Zinke has been waiting weeks for the U.S. Senate to vote on his appointment as Secretary of the Interior. With two cabinet nominees in the queue ahead of him, and the Senate days away from a week-long break, the wait for confirmation could last into early March. In the meantime, Montana's sole voice in the House of Representatives appears to have gone AWOL.
According to congressional records, Zinke hasn't cast a single vote since Jan. 5. His private and official Twitter accounts have gone virtually dormant, though his Facebook page has been sporadically updated with links to news stories and a photo of his wife, Lola, at President Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration. The most recent statement on his congressional web page is from Dec. 14, and announces the hiring of a new state director. A request to Zinke's office for comment went unreturned.
It's not like the House hasn't been taking up issues of interest to Montanans. Zinke didn't vote on a bill Jan. 9 to improve access to maternity care nationwide—a measure that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. He didn't vote on a proposal Jan. 24 to "prohibit taxpayer funded abortions." He also missed voting on a bill to further incentivize the hiring of veterans and another overturning Obama's Stream Protection Rule.
What did he vote on before ducking out? Well, the election of Rep. Paul Ryan as House Speaker, for starters. Then there was his controversial Jan. 3 vote on a rules change easing the transfer of federal lands to state, tribal or local control. But his final vote, recorded at 8:11 p.m. on Jan. 5, came in favor of a bill to strip the executive branch of its authority to enact major new regulations without congressional approval. Don't let fear of Trump-era overreach fool you—as The New Yorker wrote a few days later, those who stood to gain most from the bill's passage were big corporations, and the bill's staunchest supporters have been Koch-backed organizations like Americans for Prosperity.
Preparing to take up the reins of a federal agency can't be an easy task. And we get that Montana has just one vote among 435. But that's our vote, and 56 percent of Montana voters entrusted it to Zinke. The least he could do is cast it.