The nomination of New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) to lead the Department of the Interior advanced March 4. It will now be scheduled for a vote before the full Senate.
Haaland first had to win approval from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the group that questioned the Democrat during two days of hearings last month. By a vote of 11-to-9, the senators on the committee voted “favorably” to advance the 60-year-old.
All 10 Democrats and one Republican (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) voted favorably. Nine Republican senators voted against advancement.
The Senate confirmation vote has not yet been scheduled. Media reports speculate it might not take place until sometime in April.
Haaland is at the cusp of making history as the first Native American to lead the department and the first ever to hold a cabinet post.
“Today’s vote takes us one step closer to Congresswoman Haaland’s historic confirmation,” Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians said in a statement. “It is fitting that while we celebrate Women’s History Month, Deb Haaland is poised to make it.”
Key support came from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, the committee’s chairman, and two Republican senators – Sen. Murkowski who is on the committee and Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, who is not on the committee but has pledged to vote for confirmation in the Senate.
“Two hundred and thirty years after Washington called his first cabinet meeting, it is long past time to give a Native American woman a seat at the cabinet table,” Manchin said.
Sen. Murkowski had previously said she was struggling to decide how to vote.
“I have decided to support this nomination today, to support the first Native American who will hold this position, with the expectation that Representative Haaland will be true to her word,” Murkowski said. “Not just on issues related to Native Peoples, but also on responsible resource development.”
The Department of the Interior oversees the management of public lands, water resources, minerals, wildlife and cultural heritage preservation. It is also entrusted with upholding federal trust and treaty responsibilities to the 574 federally recognized tribes – 5.2 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives in all.
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