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Pelosi, Hoyer nod to support for Haaland as Biden weighs Interior pick

Pelosi, Hoyer nod to support for Haaland as Biden weighs Interior pick
© Bonnie Cash

House Democratic leaders on Wednesday voiced support for Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Senate Democrats offer fresh support for embattled Tanden Politics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees MORE (D-N.M.) to be the next Interior Secretary, a move that would leave the party with an even slimmer margin.

Haaland has emerged as the leading contender for the post and has support from progressive groups, who have feared she might not be picked because of the slim House majority Democrats have after the party lost ground in this year's elections. 

Two House Democrats already have been nominated to posts in the Biden administration, further shrinking the majority.

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But the remarks by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden coronavirus relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority Some Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse plans for immigration bills add uncertainty on Biden proposal This week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package MORE (D-Md.) offered support for President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenIntercept bureau chief: minimum wage was not 'high priority' for Biden in COVID-19 relief South Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Obama alum Seth Harris to serve as Biden labor adviser: report MORE to select Haaland. 

“Congresswoman Deb Haaland is one of the most respected and one of the best members of Congress I have served with,” Pelosi said in a statement following questions over whether concerns over House Democrats’ numbers could be stalling a Haaland pick.

“I am so proud that, as one of the first Native American women to have served in Congress, she serves as Chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Congresswoman Haaland knows the territory, and if she is the President-elect’s choice for Interior Secretary, then he will have made an excellent choice.”

Biden has been facing mounting pressure to select a Native American to lead Interior — an agency critics say has often fallen short in its responsibilities to tribes.

Hoyer said Wednesday that Haaland would be a "historic and very appropriate" choice for Interior secretary. He said that he had not talked with the Biden transition team about Haaland specifically.

A week ago, Hoyer told reporters that he was "certainly concerned by the slimming of the majority" and had "indicated to the administration very early on that I wanted them to be very careful in terms of the members that they appointed from the Congress given the closeness of our majority.”

If Haaland were selected, New Mexico law wouldn't require her to vacate her seat until confirmed for a new position, at which point the state would have a maximum of 91 days to hold an election.