Rep. Deb Haaland, President Joe Biden's nominee to be Interior Secretary, defended her record during Senate confirmation hearings as Republicans grilled her over past statements and painted her as partisan and liberal.
Haaland is a staunch progressive and has advocated for stronger environmental protections, including on public lands and related to oil and gas exploration. She reiterated her position that her secretarial responsibility would differ from her role in Congress. If confirmed, she'll become the first Native American Cabinet secretary in the country's history. She faced tough - and, at times, misguided - questioning from Republican lawmakers anxious about the president's climate goals.
Biden's agenda, including the possible creation of a Civilian Climate Corps, "demonstrates that America's public lands can and should be engines for clean energy production" and "has the potential to spur job creation", Haaland said in testimony prepared for her confirmation hearing Tuesday.
Wyoming U.S. Senator John Barasso said climate and energy positions taken by Haaland are "views that many in my home state of Wyoming would consider as radical".
In another Monday tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said Haaland's appointment "would be historic".
The follow-up hearing, with some senators appearing remotely, lasted more than two hours and did not significantly touch on big parts of Interior's turf, including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey. He also previously represented the same 1st Congressional District seat that Halland now holds.
Murkowski said she was less concerned with why Haaland had opposed Willow in the past than she was about how Haaland may act when she has secretarial authority over the development.
Heinrich also said that Haaland "understands that confronting the climate crisis, not denying it, and transforming our economy will not come without costs and tradeoffs".
"I nearly feel like your nomination is this proxy fight about the future of fossil fuels", Cantwell said, adding that Haaland had made clear her intention to carry out Biden's clean-energy agenda. Other GOP lawmakers on the committee declined to comment on Haaland's nomination.
Haaland acknowledged that she traveled to attend protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline project, which would largely transport Canadian oil through the United States-including through Native American land.
Haaalnd framed it as an issue over tribal consultation. "If I'm confirmed as secretary, it is President Biden's agenda, not my own agenda, that I would be moving forward", Haaland said. "The reason I did that is because I agreed with the tribe that they felt they weren't consulted in the best way".
Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, unsuccessfully pressed Haaland to recuse herself from any Interior Department decisions over the Dakota Access oil pipeline, given the nominee's support of Standing Rock Sioux protesters camped along its route in 2016. The panel's chair, Sen.
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources invited Haaland to another hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday for a second round of questioning.
Manchin's support for Haaland's confirmation comes on the heels of his opposition to Neera Tanden, Biden's nominee for OMB. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, noted approvingly that Haaland supports him in his fight to fund the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's abandoned coal mine cleanup program (E&E Daily, July 17, 2020).
"But I also take the Senate's constitutional obligation to advise and consent to the President's nomination seriously", he said.
By and large, both days left an impression that Haaland had held on to the votes she needs for confirmation. The Interior Department has broad oversight over almost 600 federally recognized tribes as well as energy development and other uses for the nation's sprawling federal lands.
But Alaska is also a state that heavily relies on revenue from extractive industries.
Today, Manchin told Haaland she had done "a good job" at the hearing.
Before becoming a U.S. Representative, Haaland had unsuccessfully run for Lieutenant Governor on the ticket with Gary King in 2014.