When legislation last year proposed a pay raise to put Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on par with other Cabinet-level secretaries, Sen. David Vitter, R-La. vowed to block it until the agency increased the number of oil drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico to the level they were at prior to BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.
Although the permits are back up to pre-spill levels, Salazar’s pay remains down. But he’s not worried about it, he said Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington.
“I don’t do this job because of the money I get paid. I do this job because it is singularly the best job in the United States of America,” Salazar said. “I enjoy fixing problems for the American people.”
Asked if Vitter’s move to block the raise could be considered extortion, Salazar said, “I don’t know what his motives are.”
Vitter has made no sign of budging on the legislation since the Senate Select Committee on Ethics voted March 29 not to charge him with a rules violation for his actions. Salazar, who served as a Democrat Senator from Colorado from 2004 until President Obama appointed him as Interior secretary in 2009, noted that he joined the Senate at the same time as Vitter.
Salazar spoke at the Press Club without his trademark cowboy hat as he fielded questions ranging from what actions Congress should take on energy policy to how much control the Obama administration wields over gas prices. (Regarding the latter point, Salazar insisted “not even Harry Potter” has the ability to change gas prices at will.)
He also said the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument is on track to reopen in “a year or so.”