Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a key Senate swing vote, announced Wednesday that he will vote in favor of confirming Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to lead the Interior Department. 

“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,” Manchin said in a statement. 

“I believe Deb Haaland will be a Secretary of the Interior for every American and will vote to confirm her,” he added. 

Manchin was seen as a crucial vote for Haaland after he announced his opposition to Neera Tanden’s nomination as President Biden’s budget chief. 

Haaland, a favorite among progressives, has come under scrutiny by conservatives for her stances on pipelines as well as on a controversial oil and gas extraction method called fracking. 

Manchin in his statement cited her acknowledgment that fossil fuels will continue to be part of the energy mix and her support for extending a program that uses coal mining fees to clean up old mines that were abandoned decades ago.

“I look forward to working with her to protect our public lands and ensure the responsible use of all our natural resources in a bipartisan manner,” he said. 

Manchin is not only the evenly split Senate’s swing vote, he also chairs the committee that oversaw Haaland’s nomination, so his support is particularly crucial to her advancement. 

During a two-day confirmation hearing, the nominee faced tough questions about her progressive stances, but stressed that if confirmed, it is “President Biden’s agenda, not my own agenda, that I would be moving forward.”

She also discussed the importance of finding a “balance” between fossil fuels and fighting climate change.

“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 during her opening statement. 

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

Amid questions from Republicans about President Biden’s pause on drilling leases on public lands, she said that it is a temporary measure and won’t be a “permanent thing.”

Conservatives on the committee have expressed strong opposition to Haaland, with Sen. Steve Daines’s office saying in a statement on Wednesday that the Montana Republican would seek to “block and defeat” her nomination.

He can delay her confirmation by putting a hold on the nomination, but as long as she has a simple majority, her nomination will eventually receive a vote. 

“The Secretary of the Interior should be a consensus-builder, with a pragmatic and well-balanced track record. I’m concerned Rep. Halaand will be unable to separate from her progressive agenda and support what’s best for Montana and the West,” Daines said. “Her hostile record towards energy, natural resources and sportsmen issues are very concerning.”

Updated at 3:55 p.m.

Tags Deb Haaland Joe Biden Joe Manchin Neera Tanden Steve Daines

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