U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland is one big step closer to Senate confirmation as Interior secretary and a visit to Grand Junction.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday approved by an 11-9 vote President Joe Biden’s nomination of Haaland, D-N.M., to be Interior secretary. Haaland picked up a key vote from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who joined Democrats, including Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., in supporting her.
With another Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, having recently pledged to vote for Haaland, it now appears she is likely to be confirmed by the full Senate, which has a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans. She would be the first Native American Interior secretary.
“She will make a great — and historic — @Interior Secretary, with a firm commitment to protecting our public lands and deep understanding of policy’s impact on vulnerable communities,” Hickenlooper said in a tweet Thursday.
Haaland also would play a central role in determining the future of the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters, after the Trump administration moved it to Grand Junction, also distributing many other Washington, D.C., BLM jobs to various locations in the West.
Haaland previously has criticized the headquarters’ relocation to Grand Junction, but has told Hickenlooper, who supports keeping the headquarters here, that she will keep an open dialogue with western senators on the subject. She also has accepted his invitation to visit the new headquarters if she becomes Interior secretary.
Forty-one largely high-level BLM jobs were moved to the new Grand Junction headquarters last year. The Trump administration said the move put top BLM officials closer to the lands they manage and communities their decisions affect. Opponents say it weakened the agency due to factors including the loss of many staff who refused to move, and some want the headquarters moved back to the nation’s capital.
Haaland said during her confirmation hearing that the BLM headquarters will be an important issue to look at, first keeping in mind the well-being of career staff at the office.
Republican opposition to Haaland’s nomination has focused in good part on her past comments opposing fossil fuel development and infrastructure.
“Representative Haaland’s positions are squarely at odds with the mission of the Department of Interior and outside of the mainstream. … If she’s allowed to pursue her Green-New-Deal-inspired policies at the Department of Interior she will run Wyoming and other states’ economies into the ditch,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said before Thursday’s vote.
Murkowski on Thursday described her struggle over how to vote on the nomination. She spoke of hearing pride from many Alaskans, especially Alaska Natives, about a Native American being nominated, along with concern from many others that Haaland would act as Interior secretary in opposition to resource development on public land.
Murkowski said Haaland has committed to her that she will represent all Alaskans.
“I’ve decided to support this nomination … to support the first Native American that will hold this position, and with the expectation that Rep. Haaland will be true to her word not just on matters relating to native peoples but also responsible resource development and every other issue,” Murkowski said.