Senate confirms Deb Haaland as interior secretary, making her the US’s first Native American Cabinet secretary

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill.

  • The Senate voted 51-40 on Monday to confirm Deb Haaland as interior secretary.
  • With the historic vote, she becomes the first Native American to serve in a presidential Cabinet.
  • Haaland received bipartisan support.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Senate voted 51-40 on Monday to confirm Deb Haaland as interior secretary, making her the country’s first Native American Cabinet secretary and creating a new chapter in the relationship between the federal government and Indigenous peoples of the United States.

Four Republicans joined Democrats to confirm Haaland: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Haaland, a congresswoman from New Mexico and a citizen of the state’s Laguna Pueblo tribe, thanked the Senate for her confirming her nomination in a tweet shortly after the vote.

“As Secretary of Interior, I look forward to collaborating with all of you,” Haaland wrote. “I am ready to serve. #BeFierce.”

President Joe Biden nominated Haaland to lead the Interior Department last December, describing her as “a barrier-breaking public servant who has spent her career fighting for families, including in Tribal Nations, rural communities, and communities of color” and who would “be ready on day one to protect our environment and fight for a clean energy future.”

After Biden’s initial announcement, Haaland highlighted the groundbreaking nature of her nomination.

“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” she wrote on Twitter. “Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land. I am honored and ready to serve.”

In 2018, Haaland made history alongside Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas, becoming one of the first two Native American women ever elected to serve in Congress.

As a former environmental activist, Haaland has long backed progressive approaches to climate change, coming out against fracking and drilling on public lands.

As secretary of the US Department of the Interior, Haaland will play a key role in pursuing Biden’s climate agenda, which involves politically-sensitive topics such as fossil-fuel production and environmental regulations on federal lands. The department manages roughly 500 million acres of public lands and coastal waters.

In her opening statement before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last month, Haaland said she would respect the significance of fossil-fuel production as interior secretary while also noting issues surrounding climate change must be addressed.

“As I’ve learned in this role, there’s no question fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come,” she said. “I know how important oil and gas revenues are to critical services. But we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating, and our climate challenge must be addressed.”

She added: “Together we can work to position our nation and all of its people for success in the future, and I am committed to working cooperatively with all stakeholders, and all of Congress, to strike the right balance going forward.”

Democrats were strongly supportive of Haaland’s confirmation; she even picked up the support of Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a moderate who is deeply protective of his coal-producing state’s energy output.

“I believe Deb Haaland will be a secretary of the Interior for every American and will vote to confirm her,″ Manchin said in a statement last month. “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.”

GOP Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Steve Daines of Montana both described Haaland’s environmental views as “radical,” which include her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which Biden canceled shortly after taking office, but the Republican opposition was not substantial enough to block her confirmation.

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