Mar 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate confirms Deb Haaland as interior secretary in historic first

Picture of Deb Haaland

Deb Haaland. Photo: Jim Watson-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 51-40 on Monday to confirm Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as President Biden's secretary of the Interior Department.

Why it matters: Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, is the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency.

  • Haaland in 2018 became one of the first two Native American women to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, alongside Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas).
  • The Interior Department oversees the federal government's relationship with 567 federally recognized tribes and 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The big picture: Haaland will play an important role in Biden's energy and climate agenda as her agency manages and sustains the country's public lands, including national parks, oil and gas drilling sites, and wildlife.

  • She told senators during her confirmation hearing that while "fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come," she supports Biden's focus on moving toward a clean energy future.

Haaland's opposition to fracking and drilling on federal lands has been criticized by Republicans who argue that ending the practices could cost thousands of jobs.

  • She responded to those concerns in her confirmation hearing, testifying that "America’s public lands can and should be engines for clean energy production" and that a clean energy transition "has the potential to spur job creation."

The intrigue: Haaland's nomination was strongly supported by Native Americans across the country. From the Navajo Nation to the Oglala Lakota, tribal members watched Haaland's confirmation hearings and posted messages of support on social media.

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