Rep. Deb Haaland, DN.M., will be sworn in as Home Secretary before her Senate confirmation hearing last month. Her endorsement makes her the first Native American cabinet secretary. Jim Watson / AP hide caption
Jim Watson / AP
Jim Watson / AP
Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, is the first Native American cabinet secretary in US history.
The Senate voted between 51 and 40 Monday to confirm the Democratic Congresswoman as head of the Home Office, an agency that will play a pivotal role in the Biden government’s ambitious efforts to combat climate change and preserve nature.
Your confirmation is like symbolic as it is historical. For much of its history, the Home Office has been used as an instrument of oppression against the indigenous peoples of America. In addition to managing the country’s public land, endangered species, and natural resources, the department is also responsible for government relations between the US and Native American tribes.
“The Indian country has been shouting from the valleys, from the mountain peaks, that it is time. It is overdue,” said Pueblo tribe member Stephine Poston said NPR after Haaland was nominated.
It is not the first time that Haaland has made history. In 2018 she became one of the first two Indian women elected to Congress. Her nomination of President Joe Biden as Head of the Home Office was celebrated by tribal groups, environmental groups, and lawmakers who launched the action long overdue. But it has been rejected by Republican lawmakers and industry associations, who portrayed Haaland’s stance on various environmental issues as extreme.
“I am deeply concerned about the support from Congressmen on several radical issues that will harm Montana, our way of life, our jobs and rural America,” said Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines, who worked to block Haaland’s affirmation.
As a congressman, Haaland often criticized the Trump administration’s deregulation agenda and supported limiting fossil fuel development on public land. It is against hydraulic fracking or fracking. She was also one of the first legislators to back the Green New Deal, which calls for drastic measures to combat climate change and economic inequality.
Republican lawmakers grilled them On these points of view during her confirmation hearing to portray them as a radical decision to manage the nation’s public land, Haaland adopted a moderate tone, repeatedly saying that as Home Secretary she would achieve Biden’s environmental goals – not her own.
Biden has not endorsed the Green New Deal or fracking bans and has taken a more balanced approach to fossil fuel development on public land. He put a temporary Break on new oil and gas leases on federal states while its administration reviews the broader federal leasing program.
“There is no question that fossil fuels will and will continue to play an important role in America for years to come,” Haaland said during her confirmation hearing before adding that climate change needs to be addressed.
Haaland has called the climate crisis a “challenge to our lives” and, as Home Secretary, will play a key role in the Biden government’s efforts to address it. Biden has pledged to make America carbon neutral by 2050, which would require massive changes in industry, transportation and electricity.
The Department of the Interior manages roughly a fifth of the entire country in the United States as well as offshore holdings. The extraction and use of fossil fuels from these public areas accounts for about a quarter of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
“The department plays a role in harnessing the clean energy potential of our public areas to create jobs and new economic opportunities,” Haaland said during her confirmation hearing. “The president’s agenda shows that America’s public lands can and should be engines of clean energy.”