Rep. Deb Haaland has become the first Native American Secretary of the Interior. Photo: U.S. House Office of Photography

WASHINGTON, D.C — New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland’s nomination for Secretary of the Interior was approved by the Senate Energy and Resource Committee, today, Thursday, March 4. She will now need to be confirmed in the Senate.

The Senate Energy and Resource Committee voted 11-9 to approve Haaland’s nomination. Confirmation hearings were held on Feb. 23rd and 24th.

On the second day of the hearings Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the committee’s top Republican member said, “yesterday when you were asked why you would sponsor legislation that would put the grizzly bears under permanent federal protection. Federal protection, permanently. Your bill in the house with your name on it, you said, “I imagine at the time I was caring about bears,” Well I want to make sure you care about the law, there’s a law of the land. Will you commit to doing everything in your power to fight the frivolous lawsuits and delist species that government scientists have concluded are fully recovered?”

Haaland began answering the question from Barrasso, stating she would “seek partnerships with states, with tribes with local communities, to talk about this important issue,” Barrasso cut her off during her response, shouting, “I’m talking about the law!”

Haaland responded, “Sir, I will always follow the law.”

According to the Associated Press, the exchange, coupled with descriptions of the Interior secretary nominee as “radical” — by other white, male Republicans — left some feeling Haaland is being treated differently because she is a Native American woman.

Barrasso tweeted on March 4, “Rep. Haaland’s extreme policy views & lack of substantive answers during the hearing disqualify her to lead @Interior. If she is allowed to pursue her Green New Deal-inspired policies at Interior, she will run #Wyo & other states’ economies into a ditch.” He voted against her nomination. 

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was the lone Republican to support Haaland, who won unanimous backing from committee Democrats.

Following the nomination approval, Haaland tweeted, “My life experiences give me hope for the future. If an Indigenous woman from humble beginnings can be confirmed as Secretary of the @Interior, our country and its promise still holds true for everyone.

Haaland’s nomination is likely to be confirmed on the Senate floor. On Wednesday Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine announced that she would support Haaland’s nomination. Sens. Murkowski and Collins support for Halland all but guarantees her confirmation. If confirmed, Haaland will be the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency. Haaland is a 35th generation New Mexican who is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, and also has Jemez Pueblo heritage.

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.