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Kempthorne confirmed to head Interior

/ Source: staff and news service reports

The U.S. Senate confirmed President George W. Bush's nominee, Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, as interior secretary Friday, after several lawmakers lifted procedural holds that allowed the vote to proceed.

The confirmation was by voice vote after the Senate successfully invoked cloture on the nomination, limiting debate.

Senator Mary Landrieu, D-LA,  had put a hold on Kempthorne's nominaton to protest the royalties Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states earn from offshore energy production.  She lifted that hold on Thursday after what she called "significant progress" on the matter.

Kempthorne replaces Gale Norton and will be the 49th interior secretary, charged with overseeing federal lands.

The Senate confirmed Kempthorne in a voice vote after voting 85-8 to suspend debate on his nomination.

First elected Idaho governor in 1998, Kempthorne is also a former senator and one-time mayor of his state's capital, Boise. He had announced already that he was not seeking re-election as governor.

The Interior Department manages national parks, wildlife refuges and other federal lands, which account for 1 out of every 5 acres in the United States.