Story at a glance

  • Haaland would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary if confirmed.
  • But as Haaland has backed progressive policies such as the Green New Deal, opposed new oil and gas drilling on federal lands and natural-gas extraction through fracking, she’s facing sharp questioning from many Republicans.
  • Conservative Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) will be a deciding vote for her confirmation in the 50-50 Senate. He’s said he’s undecided on whether to confirm Haaland.

President Biden’s pick to lead the Interior Department is testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday for her confirmation hearing to lead the agency. 

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), a tribal citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, will be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in American history if confirmed by the Senate to lead the department that manages more than 600 million acres of federal land. 


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But as Haaland has backed progressive policies such as the Green New Deal, opposed new oil and gas drilling on federal lands and natural-gas extraction through fracking, she’s facing sharp questioning from many Republicans who say the Biden administration’s clean energy agenda will kill jobs. 

“There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come. I know how important oil and gas revenues are to fund critical services,” she said in her opening statement

“But we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating, and our climate challenge must be addressed.”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the ranking member of the committee, pressed Haaland on some of her positions on climate and energy issues during the hearing Tuesday, arguing that her positions are those “that many in my home state of Wyoming would consider as radical.” 

While Haaland has the support of progressive and moderate Democrats, conservative Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) will be a deciding vote for her confirmation in the 50-50 Senate. 

Manchin, the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has said he is undecided on confirming Haaland. During opening remarks, Manchin said he takes “the Senate’s constitutional obligation to advise and consent to the President’s nomination seriously.” 

On Monday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) criticized Manchin over Haaland’s confirmation. 

“Jeff Sessions was so openly racist that even Reagan couldn’t appoint him,” she tweeted. “Manchin voted to confirm him. Sessions then targeted immigrant children for wide-scale human rights abuses w/ family separation. Yet the 1st Native woman to be Cabinet Sec is where Manchin finds unease?”

Haaland was one of the first two Native American women to ever be elected to Congress in 2018. A large number of House Democrats, environmentalists and tribal leaders threw their support behind Haaland’s nomination and urged Biden to tap the congresswoman for the position. She has consistently pushed back against the Trump administration’s roll back of environmental regulations, endangered species protections and the shrinking of monuments such as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante. 


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Published on Feb 23, 2021