Watch CBS News

Senate confirms Deb Haaland as Interior secretary, making her first Native American to hold Cabinet post

Deb Haaland makes history as Interior secretary
Deb Haaland becomes first Native American confirmed as Cabinet secretary 06:03

The Senate voted 51 to 40 on Monday to confirm Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico to be Interior secretary, making her the first Native American to hold a Cabinet secretary post.

Following the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor called her confirmation a "huge step forward." 

"Now it creates a government that more embodies the full richness and diversity of this country," Schumer said. "We know for so long, the Native American community was treated badly and we have a long way to go."

As head of the Department of Interior, Haaland will lead a department tasked with overseeing and protecting the country's public and tribal lands. Haaland, a member of Pueblo of Laguna, will also work to restore trust between the nation's 574 federally recognized tribes and a department that has mistreated and neglected Indigenous people.

Before the vote on Monday evening, Schumer said that Haaland is "making history twice over," citing her election victory to become a Congresswoman and now her confirmation to lead a federal department. Haaland, elected in 2018 along with Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids of Kansas, were the first Native American women elected to Congress.

"Representative Haaland's confirmation represents a gigantic step forward in creating a government that represents the full richness and diversity of this country because Native Americans were for far too long neglected at the cabinet level and in so many other places," Schumer added.

Tribal leaders and progressives pushed the Biden administration to nominate Haaland to lead the Interior Department. During her opening remarks in her confirmation hearing, Haaland acknowledged the historic nature of the nomination.

"The historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say that it is not about me," she said. "Rather, I hope this nomination would be an inspiration for Americans, moving forward together as one nation and creating opportunities for all of us."

Haaland faced opposition from several Republican senators, who disagreed with her support for the Green New Deal and her opposition to fossil fuel projects and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. When questioned about her opposition to fracking and fossil fuels during her confirmation hearing, Haaland affirmed senators that she will enact President Joe Biden's Mr. Biden's agenda. Mr. Biden supports a fracking ban on federal lands, but opposes a sweeping ban on fracking.

"I want to make sure that if I am confirmed that we are looking at things and working to strike the right balance," Haaland told Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming in her confirmation hearing. "We need to care as much about the environment as we do about the fossil fuel infrastructure in your state and other states. We need to balance those priorities."

Despite some opposition to her nomination, four Senate Republicans  —   Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine — voted to confirm.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.