Bloomberg Quicktake: Deb Haaland Will be the First Native American Interior Secretary
Historic Hearing Set for Haaland
The confirmation hearing for Interior Secretary nominee Rep. Deb Haaland is scheduled for Tuesday, February 23 at 9:30 a.m. ET
Monday, February 22, 2021
Indigenously

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A date has been set for the much-anticipated confirmation hearing of Interior Secretary nominee, Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, a tribal citizen of the Laguna Pueblo.

The historic hearing will take place on Tuesday, February 23, at 9:30 AM ET before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — the first time a Native American will be considered for a cabinet position by the Senate. If confirmed, Haaland will make history again in becoming the first Native American Cabinet secretary in our 243-year history as a nation.

Haaland’s confirmation hearing is part of a flurry of hearings stalled by the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. According to CNN’s Cabinet Tracker, only seven of Biden’s Cabinet-level nominees requiring Senate approval have been confirmed.

debhaaland
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), center, stands among Native women leaders and members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol on September 11, 2019. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The announcement comes as opposition against Haaland’s nomination has been building among Republican lawmakers critical of her stance on energy affairs.

The most recent of her critics has been Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana. In January, Rosendale joined 14 Republican members of Congress in signing a letter to Biden urging him to withdraw his nomination of Haaland, calling her “a direct threat to working men and women and a rejection of responsible development of America’s natural resources.”

In early February, Daines released a statement after meeting with Haaland saying that he is “deeply concerned with the Congresswoman’s support on several radical issues” and threatened to block her confirmation. His most recent attack came hours before her hearing date had been announced, Tuesday, in spreading misinformation over the failure of Texas’ power grid in the face of a record winter freeze.

Haaland was a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal in 2019 and has been vocal in opposing fracking on public lands, including her ancestral homelands near Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. In the lead-up to her historic campaign victory in 2018 — one of the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress — Haaland joined thousands of other Indigenous Water Protectors and their allies at Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“I went to Standing Rock because I believe the health of our earth and environment are the most important factors for the future of our children,” Haaland wrote on her blog about her campaign commitment to address climate change.

Many across Indian Country regard the second-term congresswoman as “Auntie Deb,” a term of endearment emblematic of what she and her historic appointment represent: a connected and caring voice reflecting the resilience and resistance of a People faced with centuries of broken promises, direct genocide, persistent neglect, and abuse. Her nomination to lead the Department of Interior, an agency that has historically worked to marginalize Native Americans and usurp Indigenous lands is also deeply symbolic.

Haaland’s storied struggle —a single-mom who’s faced food insecurity and homelessness all while earning a law degree of which she is still paying off student loans — is perhaps why an alliance of progressives activists, many of them Indigenous, relentlessly campaigned to elevate Haaland, over another Native American being considered for the Cabinet post. Micheal Connor, a career Interior bureaucrat of Taos Pueblo was also being considered by the Biden-Harris Transition Team, but he was quickly discounted over suspicions of seeming too “corporate.”

Last Monday, the conservative news website, The Daily Caller, released a report revealing Haaland’s own corporate ties to an oil and gas operation owned by the Laguna Pueblo. As board member and eventually chairwoman of the Laguna Development Corporation between 2010–2015, Haaland oversaw the tribally-owned transmix plant which produces approximately 50,000 gallons per day of blended fossil fuel to be sold through the LDC’s four gas stations situated across the Pueblo, according to the website.

Haaland’s confirmation hearing is likely to draw the most ire of all other proceedings given the tension felt between the Biden Administration and the oil and gas industry. (Biden has called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and has promoted climate change initiatives over energy development.)

But it is unlikely that her nomination will be rejected. House Democrats hold a thin majority after the November elections, and in her short time in Congress, Haaland has won the support of many Republicans who have praised her role as vice-chair on the House Committee on Natural Resources.

It could take days if not weeks before a determination is made about Haaland’s nomination. The average Cabinet nominee for both Trump and Obama’s first terms was confirmed in 20 days. Haaland’s process is expected to be no different.

To date, nine nominations to the cabinet have been rejected by the Senate — the most recent was John Tower in 1989, a former U.S. Senator nominated by President George H.W. Bush to be Secretary of Defense. He was investigated over claims of alcohol addiction, marital infidelity, and questionable ties with defense contractors. In addition, 17 nominations or near nominations have been withdrawn, either by the president or by the person chosen. President John Tyler holds the record for most cabinet nominees rejected by the Senate; four of his nominees failed to win confirmation. indigenously
Jenni Monet is a journalist and tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna. She reports on Indigenous rights and injustice in the U.S. and the world. This article originally appeared independently at Indigenously.