The Senate voted Monday to reaffirm Rep. Deb Haaland, DN.M., as Secretary of the Home Office to President Joe Biden, making the second-term Democrat the first Native American Cabinet Secretary in US history.
The vote took place between 51 and 40, with four Republicans joining the Democrats.
Haaland, a registered member of Laguna Pueblo, has received non-partisan support to run the interior department, which employs 70,000 people and is responsible for overseeing the country’s natural resources. The agency manages nearly 500 million acres, or one-fifth the size of the United States.
Haaland’s confirmation fills one of the few vacancies in Biden’s cabinet almost two months after he was sworn in. With most of the key posts now occupied, prominent positions include the United States Sales Representative, Secretary of Labor, and Secretary for Health and Human Services.
“We’ve made history twice now in the last few minutes,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said after the vote, noting that Haaland was the first Native American Secretary of the Interior and first Native American Cabinet Secretary .
The confirmation marks a win for progressives who campaigned for Haaland’s nomination, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Haaland, a Green New Deal supporter, was a co-chair of Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign.
Republicans tried to take Haaland’s progressive stance toward her during their confirmation hearings last month. Senator Steve Daines, R-Mont., Urged Haaland for her support for the Green New Deal and the falling number of jobs in the fossil fuel industry.
“I believe there are millions of jobs in a clean energy future,” replied Haaland, consistent with previous statements from Biden. “If we can all work together, we can do it all. I think we can protect our public land and create jobs.”
When asked about her opposition to fracking on public land, Haaland replied that if affirmed, she would support Biden’s agenda, not necessarily her own.
“I understand that President Biden does not endorse a ban on fracking,” she said.
During the hearing, Haaland stressed her bipartisan references. In her first year in Congress, Haaland instituted more bills with a co-sponsor of another party than any other newcomer to the House, according to GovTrack. This makes it the tenth largest politically left member of Congress.
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted in early March to push Haaland’s nomination 11 to 9. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, joined 10 Democrats for her endorsement.
In a somewhat unusual maneuver, Haaland also extolled the support of Rep. Don Young, another Republican from Alaska, who introduced her to the committee.
“I let her reach across the aisle to talk to me about Alaska. She’s non-partisan,” Young told lawmakers.
Murkowski was one of the obvious skeptics on the committee, despite having voted to push Haaland’s nomination.
“I will place my trust in Rep Haaland and her team despite some very real concerns,” said Murkowski.
The four Republicans who voted for Haaland’s confirmation on Monday were Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., and Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Senator Joe Manchin, the influential and closely watched moderate Democrat from West Virginia, also gave his approval. Manchin, quoting Young’s approval, said it was “a long time since a Native American woman got a seat on the cabinet table.”
Haaland at the hearing pledged to work to repair the U.S. federal government’s relationship with Native American tribes if confirmed. She pointed to her own story as an inspiration.
“If an Indigenous woman from humble beginnings can be confirmed as Home Secretary, our country holds promise for everyone,” she said.
Haaland is one of the first two Native American women to be elected to Congress, along with Democratic colleague Sharice Davids of Kansas, a member of the Ho Chunk Nation.
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