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House Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary

House Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary
© Aaron Schwartz

More than 50 House Democrats are pushing President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE to select Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandEquilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — A new final frontier: Washing dirty laundry in space OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland: No plan 'right now' for permanent drill leasing ban | Heat wave sparks historically unseasonable wildfires in West | Watchdog calls on Pentagon to detail 'forever chemicals' cleanup expenses Heat wave sparks historically unseasonable wildfires in West MORE (D-N.M.) as his next Interior secretary, a move that would for the first time bring a Native American into a president’s Cabinet.

“Representative Deb Haaland is eminently qualified to be Interior Secretary. She has been a champion for our environment and public lands and has worked tirelessly to improve the nation-to-nation relationship between the United States and Indian tribes,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the transition team, noting their ability to “make history by giving Native Americans a seat at the Cabinet table for the first time.”

Haaland, who is already being vetted for the position, was in 2018 one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, alongside Rep. Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsTech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run Is nonpartisan effectiveness still possible? MORE (D-Kan.).

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The letter, first reported by Politico, was spearheaded by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). Haaland chairs the panel's Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

Though just elected to her second term, “she has distinguished herself as a respected leader within our caucus,” the lawmakers wrote, while her focus on climate change and Native rights would help her “play a leading role in carrying out your administration’s environmental and climate policies and managing its relationship with tribal nations.”

Haaland has also been backed by youth climate organization Sunrise Movement and has generated excitement among progressives and those eager to see Biden keep his promise to pick a Cabinet that reflects the diversity of the country.

But the letter from colleagues helps bolster her bid, showing support from a broader ideological range. 

Sens. Tom UdallTom UdallSenate Democrats befuddled by Joe Manchin Study: Chemical used in paint thinners caused more deaths than EPA identified Oregon senator takes center stage in Democratic filibuster debate MORE and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSchumer vows to only pass infrastructure package that is 'a strong, bold climate bill' FBI warns lawmakers of violence from QAnon conspiracy theorists Overnight Energy: Company officially nixes Keystone XL pipeline | Government watchdog finds failings, but no Trump influence, in clearing of Lafayette Square MORE, fellow New Mexico Democrats, are also being considered for the role, though it is unclear if they are also being vetted.

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Udall, who did not run for reelection and is leaving the Senate in January, told The Hill earlier this week that he is still in the running for the role.

“Like so many New Mexicans, I’m excited about the vision of the incoming Biden-Harris administration and I am honored to be considered for an opportunity to continue my public service,” he said.

The letter is Grijalva’s second in support of Haaland.

After being endorsed for the Interior role himself by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, he penned a letter Monday asking fellow members to back Haaland.

“It is well past time that an Indigenous person brings history full circle at the Department of Interior,” Grijalva wrote.

"It should go without saying, Rep. Haaland is absolutely qualified to do the job," he added.