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Manchin backs Haaland for interior secretary after opposing Biden's budget pick

Confirmation of Biden's Budget pick in jeopardy
Biden faces confirmation battle with Office of Management and Budget nominee 02:00

Washington — Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Wednesday that he would support Congresswoman Deb Haaland's nomination to be interior secretary, after announcing last week that he would not vote to confirm President Biden's pick to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden

Manchin, a moderate Democrat, is considered one of the most important senators in evenly divided Senate, and his support provides a crucial boost to Haaland's nomination in the upper chamber.

"With respect to Representative Haaland and her confirmation hearing, while we do not agree on every issue, she reaffirmed her strong commitment to bipartisanship, addressing the diverse needs of our country and maintaining our nation's energy independence," he said in a statement. Manchin, the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, had said in his opening statement for Haaland's confirmation hearings before the committee earlier this week that he was undecided on whether he would support her.

Several Republican senators have criticized Haaland, who would be the first Native American to lead the Interior Department if confirmed, arguing that her views on public lands and fossil fuels are too radical and liberal. Haaland highlighted her bipartisan record in the House during her confirmation hearings, and 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 on Wednesday.

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

In his statement on Wednesday, Manchin noted that Haaland had "reiterated the position of the Biden Administration that our country will continue to use fossil fuels for years to come, even as we transition to a cleaner energy future, through innovation not elimination."

"I believe Deb Haaland will be a Secretary of the Interior for every American and will vote to confirm her. I look forward to working with her to protect our public lands and ensure the responsible use of all our natural resources in a bipartisan manner," Manchin said.

Manchin's support for Haaland contrasts with his opposition to Tanden, another one of Mr. Biden's nominees who is generally considered to be more progressive. As there is a 50-50 split in the Senate, the loss of Manchin's support for Tanden means that a Republican would have to vote to confirm her, which is unlikely. Several moderate Republicans, such as Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, have announced their opposition to Tanden's nomination. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has said that she is still undecided.

Manchin cited Tanden's history of partisan comments and tweets as his reason for opposing her nomination, saying in a statement last week that her "her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget."

During her confirmation hearings this week, Haaland was quizzed on a tweet from October 2020 where she said that Republicans don't believe in science. GOP Senator John Barrasso said that this comment was "concerning," as some members of the Republican delegation are medical doctors.

"Yes, if you're a doctor, I would assume that you believe in science," Haaland replied.

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