Trump considering Senator Heitkamp of North Dakota for Cabinet: source

December 1, 2016 3:09 PM EST

Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) speaks at a news conference with a bipartisan group of senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., to unveil a compromise proposal on gun control measures, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas


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By Ernest Scheyder

HOUSTON (Reuters) - President-elect Donald Trump is considering Democratic U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota for either the interior or energy secretary positions in his Cabinet, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

Trump is also considering Joe Manchin, another conservative Democratic senator who represents the coal state of West Virginia, and Gary Cohn, president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc, for energy secretary, U.S. media reported on Thursday.

Reuters previously reported that Trump planned to meet with Heitkamp on Friday, according to his transition team. Trump requested the meeting with Heitkamp, the source said.

In a statement, Heitkamp said she appreciated "the president-elect inviting me for a meeting," adding she hoped to "work with the president-elect and all of my colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle to best support my state."

The statement did not address whether a Cabinet position was being discussed, but Heitkamp's spokeswoman, Abbie McDonough, said the senator "has a long record of working with both Republicans and Democrats."

Heitkamp, along with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, negotiated a deal in Congress last December to lift the decades-old ban on crude oil exports in exchange for a multi-year extension of tax credits for wind and solar energy.

Heitkamp has been a supporter of domestic energy development, both in fossil fuels and renewable resources.

North Dakota is a major source of crude oil, coal and wind power.

Heitkamp is popular in her home state, though not all North Dakota state politicians voiced full support for the senator potentially joining the Trump administration.

"I don't see (Heitkamp) being in any Cabinet position," Wayne Stenehjem, a Republican and North Dakota's attorney general, told Reuters.

She was elected to the Senate in 2012 in a close race, putting her up for re-election in two years. Should she join the Cabinet, her Senate seat would be filled by an appointment by North Dakota's Republican governor. Republicans expect to hold 52 seats in the 100-seat chamber when the new Congress meets in January.

'SERIOUS ABOUT COAL'

Politico, citing unnamed sources, said Manchin was being considered for energy secretary. It quoted one of the sources as saying Manchin "is being considered to show the coal people how serious Trump is about coal."

Politico said Manchin told the website that he and his staff had not been contacted by Trump's transition team, adding: "If I can do anything that would help my state of West Virginia, and my country, I would be happy to talk to anybody."

Manchin's office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Manchin is up for re-election in 2018 in West Virginia, an increasingly Republican state where coal jobs have been threatened by cheaper natural gas prices.

His 2012 election campaign stressed his opposition to climate change legislation that would have brought federal incentives for the United States to transition to cleaner-burning energy sources and away from fossil fuels such as coal.

Reuters had reported on Wednesday that Goldman's Cohn was being considered to head the White House budget office or another post in the Trump administration.

Citing unnamed sources, Fox Business Network reported on Thursday that Trump was also considering nominating Cohn to head the Energy Department. Cohn met with Trump in New York on Tuesday.

Cohn, a former Goldman commodities trader who joined the firm in 1990, has been widely considered to be the heir apparent to Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein.

Another reported contender for the Energy and Interior positions, Oklahoma oil magnate Harold Hamm, said on Thursday he would recommend that Trump nominate Republican U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, one of the president-elect's energy advisers, for energy secretary.

"I've put his name forward," Hamm said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" program. "He'd sort of do a better job in that post than me."

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Richard Cowan in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Peter Cooney and Bill Rigby)



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