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Senate panel advances Haaland's nomination for interior secretary, teeing up confirmation

Hearing for Interior nominee Deb Haaland
Tribal communities closely watching Senate confirmation hearing of Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland 06:30

Washington — The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced Congresswoman Deb Haaland's nomination to be Interior Secretary by a vote of 11 to 9 on Thursday, bringing her one step closer to confirmation by the full Senate. 

Senator Lisa Murkowski was the sole Republican to vote to advance Haaland's nomination, and said that she would vote to confirm Haaland on the Senate floor.

If confirmed, Haaland would be the first Native American to lead the Interior Department, which oversees 500 million acres of federal lands, roughly one-fifth of the U.S., including 62 national parks. Her nomination has also received support from Republican Senator Susan Collins and Energy Committee Chair Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat, all but guaranteeing her confirmation.

Several Republican senators have criticized Haaland, arguing that her views on public lands and fossil fuels are too radical and liberal. Haaland, who was elected to the House in 2018, supports the Green New Deal, opposes fossil fuel projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline and allowing oil drillers into Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuges.

Senate Energy And Natural Resources Committee Examines Nomination Of Debra Haaland For Interior Secretary
Representative Debra Haaland, President Biden's nominee for secretary of the interior, testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources at the U.S. Capitol on February 24, 2021. Getty Images

During her confirmation hearings, Haaland highlighted her bipartisan record in the House, and Alaska Republican Congressman Don Young introduced her to the panel.

"The role of a congresswoman in one district in the country is much different than the role of a secretary who is fighting and working for every single American and all of our public lands across the country. Those are two different things, I recognize that," Haaland said during her second day of confirmation hearings.

In remarks announcing her support for Haaland, Murkowski said she had listened to her constituents in Alaska about their thoughts on Haaland's nomination.

"I hear two things from Alaskans over and over again. The first is that so many Alaskans, Alaskan natives in particular, are enormously proud to have a Native American nominated to this position," Murkowski said. "The second concern though that I am hearing is that so many are concerned about the agendas that Representative Haaland will seek to implement on her own, and on behalf of the White House. They are concerned by her opposition to resource development on public lands."

"I have really struggled through this one, how to reconcile a historic nomination with my concerns about an individual and administration's conception of what Alaska's future should be," Murkowski continued. "I decided to support this nomination today to support the first Native American who hold this position and with the expectation that Representative Haaland will be true to her word."

Murkowski said she would put her trust in Haaland "despite some very real misgivings," and added that she would also hold Haaland to her "commitment to ensure that Alaska is allowed to prosper."

Collins announced her support for Haaland's nomination on Wednesday.

"While we certainly have different views on some issues, her role in helping to shepherd the Great American Outdoors Act through the House will be beneficial to the Department's implementation of this landmark conservation law, which I cosponsored," Collins said, referring to a large conservation bill passed last year. "I also appreciate Representative Haaland's willingness to support issues important to the State of Maine, such as Acadia National Park, as well as her deep knowledge of tribal issues, which has earned her the support of tribes across the country, including those in Maine."

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