March 4, 2021

Haaland nomination to head Interior heads to full Senate

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The U.S. Capitol.

The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland’s nomination to lead the Interior Department.

The committee voted 11-9, with Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voting along with Democrats, to send the nomination to the full Senate.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico was among the Democrats who voted to advance Haaland’s nomination.

“I am pleased that Congresswoman Haaland’s confirmation is advancing, and I am eager for the full Senate to take up her nomination so she can get to work protecting our natural heritage for future generations,” Heinrich said.

Heinrich, a second-term Senator, has been a key voice supporting Haaland’s nomination.

Haaland’s nomination appears secure, with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin—the conservative Democrat from West Virginia who serves as a swing vote—announcing his support. Manchin is also the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Republican Susan Collins of Maine has also announced her support for Haaland, and Murkowski’s vote on Thursday indicated Collins would not be the only Republican to vote to approve the nomination.

Haaland would be the first Native American cabinet-level official for any President.

Haaland’s nomination has received intense scrutiny from conservative Republicans and the oil and gas industry, which have largely opposed her selection to what would be a key position in oil and gas exploration and extraction on public lands.

One other Biden nominee, Neera Tanden, to head the Office of Management and Budget, withdrew because of opposition from Republicans and Manchin. And the nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to head the U.S. Health and Human Services Department advanced from committee on a tie vote, causing more procedural moves to advance to the full Senate.

The U.S. Senate is currently split 50-50 among Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote for Democrats. Committees are likewise split evenly.

Voters would decide Haaland’s replacement for the 1st Congressional District once she resigns the seat. Legislation to require a primary to choose each party’s nominee is still pending in the Legislature; if it does not pass, the parties themselves will choose the nominee for major parties.