The Senate on Monday voted to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Interior (DOI), Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), clearing a hurdle for Biden as he seeks to achieve “environmental justice” as one of his top agenda items.
Haaland, a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo tribe in New Mexico, is the first Native American to become a cabinet member, which aligns with Biden’s promise to appoint “the most diverse cabinet representative of all folks.” She was confirmed 51–40 with most Republicans opposing her confirmation.
Haaland was a proponent of the 2019 Green New Deal and has advocated for fully banning fracking and drilling on federal lands. She faced considerable resistance from Republicans during her hearing with the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in February before the committee ultimately approved her 11–9.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the Senate floor after Monday’s vote was announced that her confirmation was “amazing.”
“It’s a huge step forward, and now it creates a government that more embodies the full richness and diversity of this country,” Schumer said, asserting that Native Americans have long been “treated badly” but that Haaland’s confirmation demonstrates “we are moving forward.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, criticized Haaland during the hearing process, saying he was “troubled” by her views and the impact they could have in his state of Wyoming, nearly half of which is comprised of federal land. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), the junior senator from the state, has also been outspoken in her opposition to Haaland, claiming Haaland will continue Biden’s “job-killing” energy agenda. Lummis sponsored the POWER Act in January to reverse Biden’s moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal land.
Both reinforced their disapproval of her confirmation in statements following Monday’s vote, which Lummis could not attend because of a snowstorm:
Representative Haaland’s extreme policy views, lack of substantive answers during the confirmation process, and full support for @POTUS’ war on American energy disqualify her for the job of @Interior secretary.
— Sen. John Barrasso (@SenJohnBarrasso) March 15, 2021
While I love the particular charms of Wyoming winters, this weekend’s historic snowstorm has kept me from returning to Washington, D.C. to vote on the confirmation of Representative Deb Haaland. My full statement here: https://t.co/ILQf5eJ3qI
— Senator Cynthia Lummis (@SenLummis) March 15, 2021
Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), another critic of Haaland, pressed the New Mexico Democrat during her hearing over her appearance at protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, questioning if she still opposed the pipeline that has transported “over a half a million barrels of light, sweet crude oil a day to refineries” for more than three years and arguing the alternative to pipelines would be U.S. reliance on foreign sources like Saudi Arabia for oil.
Haaland maintains she was protesting with affected Native American tribes who felt they were not adequately consulted about the project. “I know it’s an important issue for you, and I understand that,” Haaland said to Hoeven. “I also agree that whenever these projects come up that we absolutely should make sure that we are consulting with tribes if, in fact, these projects do impact their lands.”
Committee chair Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a moderate Democrat who expressed hesitation with Haaland’s nomination, ultimately voted in favor of it, saying in a statement in February after her hearing, “While we do not agree on every issue, she reaffirmed her strong commitment to bipartisanship, addressing the diverse needs of our country and maintaining our nation’s energy independence.”
Haaland indicated her desire to work in a bipartisan manner following her confirmation, saying, “I look forward to collaborating with all of you”:
— Deb Haaland (@DebHaalandNM) March 15, 2021
Haaland is the third House Democrat Biden has tapped to join his administration, and her confirmation further strains the party as it attempts to pass agenda items with 219 members and an extremely thin majority.
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.