Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Haaland poised to become first Native American cabinet official, at Interior; Vilsack USDA nomination also proceeding

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., during today's hearing.
(Photo by Jim Watson, The Associated Press)
U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland, D-N.M, is poised to become the first Native American secretary in a presidential cabinet with the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing her nomination as interior secretary today.

Meanwhile, former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack is expected to be easily confirmed for his second stint as agriculture secretary today too, the Des Moines Register reports.

"The Interior Department manages one-fifth of the land in the U.S., including national parks, wildlife refuges and tribal lands held in trust," Nathan Rott notes for NPR. "Those lands generate billions of dollars of revenue not only in energy production but from recreation. They are also the source of roughly one-quarter of the country's total greenhouse-gas emissions."  

Haaland is a controversial pick, with many conservatives concerned about her views on energy development. During the hearing, "numerous Republican Senators focused their questioning on Biden's oil and gas leasing 'ban' on federal lands, citing projected economic and job losses from the executive action," Rott reports. "Haaland repeatedly pointed out that the president has not banned new oil and gas leasing, but paused it while his administration reviews the federal leasing program."

Her nomination is historic on several levels. "Haaland, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, was one of the first Native American women elected to Congress, along with U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas. And if confirmed, she will be the first Native American to head the agency that administers the nation’s trust responsibility to American Indians and Alaska Natives," Traci Morris writes for The Conversation. Morris, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, is the executive director of Arizona State University's American Indian Policy Institute.

Many Native Americans say they're excited to see Haaland's nomination, and said she has worked hard to represent their interests, The Associated Press reports. The story includes interviews with Native Americans reflecting on how she has helped them or how they believe she will help them.

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