Murkowski votes with Senate panel to advance Haaland nomination
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted Thursday to advance the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to lead the Interior Department, sending her nomination to the full Senate.
The panel voted 11-9 to approve Haaland’s nomination, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) siding with Democrats to support the nomination.
Haaland’s nomination will now go to the full Senate, where she is expected to be confirmed barring Democratic defections. Confirmation for nominees requires a simple majority.
The nomination has been contentious, with Republicans taking aim at Haaland’s stances on fossil fuels and pledging to try to defeat her. GOP senators could also potentially delay her confirmation through procedural hurdles.
Murkowski is one of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s swing votes, along with committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Murkowski, a senator from a major oil-producing state who was heavily lobbied by the industry to oppose the nomination, said she would back Haaland “despite some very real misgivings.”
“If you’re listening, know that I intend to work with you because I want you to be successful. And quite honestly, we need you to be successful,” Murkowski said.
At least one other Republican, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, will support Haaland’s nomination, making her likely to be confirmed with at least a 52-48 majority.
If she’s confirmed, Haaland will be the first Native American Cabinet secretary and will oversee a department that has significant responsibilities to the country’s federally recognized tribes.
Haaland received praise from the panel’s Democrats, with Manchin hailing the significance of her nomination.
“230 years after Washington called his first Cabinet meeting, it is long past time to give a Native American woman a seat at the Cabinet table,” Manchin said.
“There are people all over Indian country who are so proud of [Haaland’s] nomination,” added Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). “They feel like they have been good stewards of public land for centuries before us.”
But many of its Republican members criticized Haaland, with Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) repeatedly pressing Haaland on whether she backed the Biden administration’s decision to halt the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Haaland initially simply said she “support[ed] President Biden’s agenda,” prompting Risch to repeatedly directly ask her if she personally supported the cancellation and why.
“I’m not sure I have a full answer for you other than to say I know there are a lot of people in this country who care deeply about our environment and that is one area that folks have been passionate about,” Haaland responded.
Committee ranking member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) also asked Haaland about comments she had made in opposition to fossil fuel production and asked how she intended to advise Biden on the issue.
“The role of a congresswoman in one district in the country is much different from the role of a secretary who is fighting and working for every single American in all of our public lands across the country,” Haaland replied.
“We need to care as much about the environment as we do about the fossil fuel infrastructure in your states and other states, we need to balance those priorities,” she added. “If we have a mind to protect our public lands for future generations that we’ll also be able to protect jobs for future generations as well.”
During her confirmation hearing, Haaland said her priorities will include supporting career employees, promoting clean energy and clean energy jobs, working on broadband internet in Indian Country and dealing with missing and murdered indigenous women.
She also acknowledged that fossil fuels “will continue to play a major role in America for years to come” and that this needs to be balanced with combating climate change.
The Center for Native American Youth hailed the advancement of Haaland’s nomination in a statement.
“Native youth look to Representative Haaland as a role model, as a fierce defender of their rights and their communities, and as the living representation of the future of Indigenous communities in this country,” the group said.
“We urge the full Senate to promptly confirm Representative Haaland as the Secretary of the Interior. She will be a fierce advocate for all of us, in a way that no one else can.”