In a 57-39 Senate vote, Democrats fell short of the 60 votes they would have needed to advance the nominee past GOP obstacles.
David Hayes is an environmental lawyer picked by Obama to serve as deputy secretary of the Interior Department. Hayes held the same post during the last three years of the Clinton administration. And before his nomination, Hayes led Obama's natural resources transition team, responsible for naming a new Interior Department head.
Republican opposition to Hayes' nomination was led by Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, who was angered by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's recent decision to revoke 77 oil and gas leases in Bennett's home state. He was joined by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
Murkowski had questions about the administration's plans for oil and gas development and objected to recent reversals of several Bush-era rules on endangered species and mountaintop mining.
"It may be uncomfortable for some to watch us have to clean up mess after mess — from corruption to lawbreaking — that is the previous administration's legacy at Interior, but to cast a vote against such a qualified and fine person is the height of cynicism," Salazar said in a statement following the vote.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., left open the possibility that Hayes' nomination could be revived.
Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Murkowski, said that the senator had hopes that the disagreements could be worked out with Interior.