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Haaland confirmation appears likely

New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to lead the Department of Interior ended Feb. 24 without a vote. Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who is the chairman, gave members more time to submit additional questions and Haaland and the White House have more time to respond.

The process could take days or weeks.

Some supporters were worried through two days of hearings – which included volatile questioning from some Republican senators – that the historic nomination might be in peril. However, tensions were eased somewhat when Manchin, a moderate Democrat, said he would support the Congresswoman from Laguna Pueblo – a key vote that could help secure a confirmation along party lines.

When Haaland, a Democrat, was asked why she wanted to become the next secretary of Interior and the first Native American to hold such a post, she referenced the Navajo Code Talkers and their use of the word for “Our Mother” as code for the United States.

“I feel very strongly that sums up what we’re dealing with,” Haaland, 60, said. “This is all of our country. This is our mother. You’ve heard the Earth referred to as Mother Earth. It’s difficult to not feel obligated to protect this land. And I feel every Indigenous person in the country understands that.”

Rep. Deb Haaland appears to have gained enough support to be confirmed as head of the Department of Interior. (Image via Facebook)

Republican senators had questioned statements Haaland previously made about the fossil fuel industry and fracking on public lands. She assured them that the fossil fuel energy would be used for years to come.

Haaland also stressed her record of bipartisan work, including a bill that addresses missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. In addition, she often stated that she would work to carry out President Joe Biden’s agenda, not her own.

“Being a secretary is far different from being a member of Congress,” she said.

Haaland added that she’d be guided by science on the issues that come before her.

Indian Country has been almost unanimous in its support of Haaland from the beginning.

“It is time that the ranks of Interior’s leaders finally include a voice from the community whose day-to-day lives it impacts most,” the National Congress of American Indians said recently in a statement.

Adding to Indian Country’s voice has been significant support from current members of Congress, including a powerful former ally, Tom Udall, who said the nomination was “historic and long overdue.”

“Instead of criticizing Rep. Haaland’s work advocating for New Mexicans and Native American and Indigenous communities, senators should focus on how she leads with empathy to find common ground for all,” Udall wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.

Udall represented New Mexico in the Senate from 2009 until 2021 and in the House of Representatives from 1999 until 2009.

Editor’s note: This is a developing story. Check back to seminoletribune.org for updates.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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