Representative Deb Haaland (DN.M.), President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Home Office, kicked off her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, acknowledging the “historic nature” of the moment as she prepares to become the country’s very first Indigenous law firm. member. But she also tried to ward off opposition from Republicans who described her as an “extreme,” “radical” threat to fossil fuel production and the American “way of life.”
“I hope this appointment is an inspiration to Americans – moving forward together as a nation and creating opportunities for all of us,” she told lawmakers.
Haaland, 60, vowed to be “a strong advocate of public lands” and consulted with all stakeholders to find the right balance between natural resource development and conservation. She also said she would “work my heart out for everyone” including fossil fuel workers, ranchers, communities suffering from legacy pollution and “people of color whose stories deserve to be heard” .
“There is no doubt that fossil fuels play and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come,” Haaland said. “I know how important oil and gas revenues are for essential services. But we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating and that our climate challenge must be met.
It didn’t take long for the upheaval to begin.
Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Rank Republican of the committee, tells Haaland that he is “troubled by many [her] points of view ”, which he described as“ totally at odds with the responsible management ”of public lands. He also has asked Haaland about one of Biden’s first climate executive orders, which he said “bans all new oil, coal and gas leases on federal lands.”
“He didn’t ban the new leases,” Haaland replied. “He did not put a moratorium on the new leases. It’s a break to review the federal fossil fuel program.
Experts told HuffPost last month that the temporary hiatus would not have a significant immediate impact on the industry, which stored Federal leases and permits to drill on public lands and waters towards the end of the Trump administration.
Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) Has read a number of Haaland’s earlier statements expressing his opposition to new pipeline projects, hydraulic fracturing and the new lease of fossil fuels on federal lands.
“I’m just concerned about making this appointment,” Daines said. “The antecedents, the ideology of the past, I think, will perpetuate more divisions and certainly hurt the economy of Montana.
Haaland largely repelled the attacks. She reminded Republicans that she was being asked to help carry out Biden’s agenda and stressed that she would obey the law.
“If I am confirmed as secretary, it is President Biden’s agenda, not my own agenda, that I would go forward,” she told Daines. Many policies Haaland will be tasked with implementing are popular among voters nationwide, poll finds published earlier this month by Data for Progress.
The post of secretary is “a very different role from that of a member of parliament representing a small district in my state,” she added later. “I understand that role: it’s to serve all Americans, not just my one district in New Mexico.”
Haaland is by all standards a qualified choice to lead Interior, an agency of some 70,000 employees that manages 500 million acres of federal land – about a fifth of the U.S. agency is in charge of the 63 national parks, the Bureau of Indian Education and respect for government trust and treaty obligations to tribal nations. She is currently a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources and chairs its subcommittee with oversight from the Home Office, and is co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.
If an indigenous woman from humble beginnings can be confirmed as secretary of the interior, our country holds promise for everyone.
Representative Deb Haaland speaks during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday
Democratic and Republican colleagues in the House said Haaland had a solid experience working across the aisle; in 2019, she introduced 13 bipartisan co-sponsored bills, which was more than any freshman in the House. She maintains a 98% lifetime score of the League of Conservation Voters.
Haaland, a registered member of the Pueblo de Laguna who made history in 2018 as one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, enjoys wide support among elected tribal leaders, intertribal organizations and groups. green and progressive. Last week, nearly 500 organizations signed a letter to the Senate leadership calling for Haaland’s prompt confirmation.
Yet Haaland has become one of the most controversial choices in Biden’s Cabinet. Two weeks before Tuesday’s hearing, GOP lawmakers, many of whom received large sums of money from the oil and gas industry, began signaling that they would vote against its confirmation. Daines and Barrasso dismissed it as “radical,” citing, among other things, its support for containing fossil fuel development on federal lands. Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) Said Haaland’s confirmation “would be disastrous for Western states, including her home state of New Mexico.”
Tribes, tribal groups and environmental organizations expressing disappointment and disgust with Republican senators’ campaign to sink Haaland’s nomination before she has had a chance to answer questions in public.
“People are going to use it to complain about Biden’s policies,” Gerald Torres, professor of environmental justice at the Yale School of the Environment, told HuffPost ahead of the hearing. “They need to look at his file.”
Democrats repeatedly came to Haaland’s defense on Tuesday. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) Told Haaland she felt her appointment had become “a proxy fight over the future of fossil fuels.” And Senator Martin Heinrich (DN.M.) rebuffed Republicans’ claims that Biden’s executive orders cost thousands of oil and gas jobs in his home state.
“We haven’t lost thousands of jobs in the oil and gas industry in New Mexico because there is no ban and because the industry has racked up a huge number of leases under fire. from sales, this secretary [David] Bernhardt got it at the end of the last administration, ”he said. “However, I want to say that we recognize that we will need to move to a fully carbon-free economy and quite frankly pretending it won’t happen will not benefit any of our workers.”
Representative Don Young (R-Alaska), who introduced Haaland to the committee and urged senators to vote for his confirmation, highlighted his bipartisan track record. He praised Haaland as a friend who reached the aisle and said that while he and others didn’t always agree with her, they could count on her to listen and hear their concerns.
“It’s my job to convince her that she’s not always right, and her job is to convince me that I’m not always right,” said Young, the longest-serving congressman.
In a call with reporters Monday, Representative Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Who along with Haaland made history as one of the first women in the Native American Congress, said her colleague was a “fierce activist and organizer in the Indian country ”and an“ Environmental Champion ”long before being sworn in at Congress. There is no one more qualified or prepared to run the agency, Davids said.
“The attacks that have been carried out against it have been carried out by some of Big Oil’s closest allies,” she said. “It’s really nothing more than an attempt to protect their bottom line, their special interests. These senators know that Congresswoman Haaland, soon to be secretary, will resist Big Oil and that scares them. It terrifies them.
Haaland’s loudest opponents have indeed been largely funded by the oil and gas industry, as HuffPost previously reported.. If confirmed, Haaland will succeed David Bernhardt, a former oil and agriculture lobbyist, and take over the agency after the Trump administration dismantled environmental safeguards and prioritized energy development over land and species conservation. .
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, echoed that opposition to Haaland is driven by industry influence and resistance to change from the status quo of repeatedly failing to deal with climate change.
“Everything has revolved around the mining industry for four years, with [the Bureau of Land Management] practically turning into a real estate department under Trump and ceding public land right and left to industry and polluters, with no consequences and no accountability, ”Grijalva said during a press call Monday.
“Deb is going to do something about it,” he added. “And they know it.
Haaland will appear before the committee again for a second round of questioning on Wednesday.
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