Deb Haaland confirmed as Interior secretary, first Native American cabinet official in history

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Chris Sommerfeldt, New York Daily News
·2 min read
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Deb Haaland, a Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, won Senate confirmation Monday to lead President Biden’s Interior Department, making her the first Native American cabinet official in history.

Haaland, whose historic nomination drew opposition from Republicans who claim she espouses extreme views on public land use and fossil fuels, clinched confirmation to become Interior secretary in a 51-40 vote. Only four Republicans, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, and Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined 47 Democrats in voting for Haaland.

Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hailed Haaland’s confirmation as “a gigantic step forward.”

“Because Native Americans were for far too long neglected in the cabinet level and in so many other places,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

As Interior secretary, Haaland will be tasked with overseeing nearly 500 million acres of federal lands across the country, including regulating drilling and other fossil fuel activities on them.

Shortly after taking office, Biden announced an immediate freeze on the issuance of all gas and oil drilling contracts on federal lands.

However, Biden’s order stopped short of halting previously awarded contracts, and climate change-skeptical Republicans sought to press Haaland to keep it that way while grilling her during her confirmation hearing last month.

Haaland, a progressive Democrat who supports the wide-ranging “Green New Deal” proposal to combat climate change, sought to assuage the GOP concerns by noting that she would as Interior secretary carry out Biden’s agenda, not her own.

“If I am confirmed as secretary, I would be serving at the pleasure of the president and it would be his agenda that I would move forward,” she told senators.

Paying homage to her heritage, Haaland also said in her confirmation hearing that she feels “obligated to protect this land” and that leading the Interior Department puts her in a perfect position to do that.

“I feel that every Indigenous person in this country understands that,” she said. “We want to protect this country, and that means protecting it in every single way.”