U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland faced a second round of questioning from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday during her confirmation hearing process for the position of secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior.
On both Tuesday and Wednesday, Haaland, D-N.M., took questions from Republican and Democratic senators on the committee for just over two hours.
Haaland is one of only a few of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees to face a second round of questions during the confirmation hearing process.
U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and James Risch, R-Idaho, the two senators who were unable to question Haaland in the first round, began the second session Wednesday.
Risch asked Haaland about the Keystone XL Pipeline, asking her four times if she supported Biden’s action shutting it down. She reiterated that she supports Biden’s agenda.
“If I say that I support President Biden’s agenda, I assume that you could take my answer as a yes,” Haaland said after Risch asked her for a fourth time if she supported shutting down the pipeline.
Republicans on the committee continued to press Haaland about her previous stances regarding public parks and lands, pipelines and fossil fuels, as well as the Endangered Species Act and Biden’s moratorium on new oil and gas leases on public lands. She was also criticized for a few of the comments she made in Tuesday’s hearing, including that she would be following the agenda of the Biden administration.
Haaland answered many of the Republican senators’ questions reiterating that, if nominated, she would promise to follow the law and work with them on the issues of their concern.
Democratic senators on the committee tended to give her space to talk about her past work that qualifies her for the position of Interior secretary and the significance of her nomination for Native American people.
U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, asked Haaland what motivates her to serve as the secretary of the Interior.
“It’s difficult to not feel obligated to protect this land, and I feel that every Indigenous person in this country understands that, which is why we have such a high rate of our people who serve in the military,” Haaland said. “We want to protect this country and that means protecting it in every single way and ensuring that those jobs, that sustenance, the opportunities for our children and grandchildren to learn and grow in this beautiful country, that we keep that for many generations to come.”
U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., asked Haaland about the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Economy Act as well as the Bureau of Land Management during her first round of questions with the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday morning. He did not ask additional questions during the second round.
On Tuesday, Hickenlooper expressed his support for Haaland’s nomination. Haaland is also supported by Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado.
“For far too long the voices of tribes and Indigenous peoples have been wrongfully ignored when it comes to decisions about ancestral and public lands,” Nordini said in an email to The Durango Herald. “Deb Haaland’s historic confirmation will mark a new day. Her conservation expertise and inclusive brand of leadership will elevate the voices of tribes and prioritize the equitable protection of public lands as we all work together to protect 30% of U.S. lands and water by 2030.”
Haaland’s nomination is also supported by Ernest House Jr., a member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Conservation Colorado board member and Fort Lewis College board of trustees member.
“Secretary Haaland’s confirmation will symbolize a new opportunity for a partnership between the federal government and tribes who were once excluded from the halls of power,” House said in an email to the Herald. “With Haaland as a federal leader, we see an inclusive future where ancestral and sacred lands will be managed and honored through an Indigenous lens.”
But Joe Jackson, spokesman for the Colorado Republican Party, encouraged Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to hold off on supporting Haaland’s nomination.
“Today, the Colorado GOP is demanding that Sen. Bennet and Sen. Hickenlooper place a hold on Rep. Haaland’s nomination until she publicly commits to keeping the Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Colorado,” Jackson said in an email to the Herald. “Colorado and Grand Junction are worth fighting for – as Colorado’s current voices in the U.S. Senate they need fight (sic) to ensure that the BLM stays closest to the millions of acres they manage.”
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Wednesday that he will vote for Haaland to serve as Interior secretary, clearing the way for her likely approval as the first Native American to head a Cabinet agency.
Manchin, a moderate from West Virginia, had been publicly undecided through the two days of hearings. He said Haaland had earned his vote, despite disagreements over drilling on federal lands and the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Haaland’s nomination will soon be voted on by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. If approved by the committee, her nomination will advance for a vote before the full Senate.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Grace George is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.