The Senate voted Thursday to move forward with the confirmation of Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) to lead the Interior Department, bringing President Joe Biden’s nominee one step closer to becoming the nation’s first Native American cabinet secretary.
The vote, called a “cloture vote,” was 54-42 with every democrat voting in favor of Haaland. Four republicans joined in support of the nomination including Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Dan Sullivan (AK). Four senators didn’t vote including Republican Sens. Richard Burr (NC), Bill Cassidy (LA), John Kennedy (LA), and Jerry Moran (KS).
Haaland’s nomination previously cleared the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in January with an 11-9 vote, with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joining 10 Democrats in support.
Interior oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and the Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, which each have a significant presence in Indian Country and the West. The department also includes the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, all of which have influence over the state of Wyoming.
The Cowboy State is already looking at $13 billion in lost tax revenue if the Biden Ban on energy production on federal lands continues, according to data from a recent study by the University of Wyoming. Those revenues typically go toward funding Wyoming education, healthcare, and infrastructure, among other of the state’s priorities, per a March 11 press release from Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ office (R-WY).
Lummis spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate Thursday in opposition to Biden’s nomination. She joined Senator Steve Daines of Montana in putting a procedural hold on Haaland’s nomination, citing concerns about the democrat’s radical political agenda, emphasizing how the appointment might negatively impact Wyoming and the West.
“Secretaries have an incredible amount of power to make decisions on how an Administration’s agenda gets implemented,” Lummis said in her remarks. “Based on her own public statements and actions, Deb Haaland is more radical in her positions than President Biden.”
Lummis also said that Wyomingites would be “devastated” by the policies that Haaland would champion if appointed.
“What we need is a secretary who understands the issues that westerners face,” Lummis said. “We need someone who knows the ways that states like Wyoming are contributing to America’s energy independence, and doing so in increasingly environmentally friendly ways.”
Wyoming’s overwhelming amount of federal public lands and minerals makes the decisions and actions of the Interior have an outsized impact.
The state produces 15 times the amount of energy it consumes, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, making it the highest net exporter of energy in the nation.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) has also expressed concerns over the appointment.
“She (Haaland) is a big supporter of the Green New Deal, which makes American energy more expensive and really does, in my opinion, very little to help the environment,” Barrasso said in February.
Haaland’s confirmation has already taken longer than that of any other Interior secretary in modern history. Most presidents have had their Interior secretary in place with a few weeks of inauguration.
The final confirmation vote will be held on Monday.