The momentous confirmation process for U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico will start next week.
The Democrat has been tapped by President Joe Biden to be secretary of the Department of the Interior, which would make her the first Native American to ever serve as a Cabinet secretary.
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to consider Haaland’s nomination.
Haaland’s ascent from a representative of the Albuquerque-based seat in the House to a potential member of the president’s Cabinet has drawn attention from a wide range of Americans.
Native American activists, Hollywood stars, including Kerry Washington and Marisa Tomei, and environmental activists are among those who have publicly lobbied on Haaland’s behalf.
Meanwhile, several Republicans and oil and gas industry advocates have come out against her nomination, citing Haaland’s support for such environmental policies as the Green New Deal.
More than 500 groups representing Indigenous peoples, environmentalists and outdoor business groups wrote a letter to congressional leaders this week announcing their “enthusiastic support” for Haaland’s appointment and asking for a rapid confirmation.
The group, which included the Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, Patagonia, New Mexico Wild and others, cited Haaland’s position as vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and chair of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands subcommittee as examples of her experience that qualifies her for the secretary position.
“Given DOI’s track record of failing to consult with Tribes or engage with Indigenous communities while enacting public lands policies against the better interests of Indigenous people, Rep. Haaland’s confirmation would be both an historic and much-needed step toward reckoning with a long and troubling legacy,” the group said.
But Haaland’s nomination has also been met with opposition. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, has said he won’t support Haaland because of her support for the Green New Deal, among other environmental initiatives.
Other lawmakers have also said they will likely oppose Haaland’s confirmation.
“It’s no surprise to see more senators raise serious concerns about the extreme positions of Congresswoman Haaland,” said Larry Behrens, Western states director for Power the Future, a group that has opposed renewable energy mandates. “New Mexico’s leaders may turn a blind eye to her radical ideas, but those who fight for our energy workers know there is too much at stake for our nation.”
Haaland has kept a somewhat low profile since being nominated, declining most interview requests. A spokeswoman said she is continuing her work in Congress and isn’t granting many interviews.
If she is nominated, Haaland will resign from her House seat, triggering a special election to fill the vacancy in the 1st Congressional District, which represents most of Albuquerque. About a dozen people, both Republicans and Democrats, and an independent, have declared their intent to seek Haaland’s seat.