Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) will vote to confirm interior secretary nominee Deb Haaland, making her the first GOP senator to publicly support President Joe Biden’s historic pick for the job.
“After examining Representative Deb Haaland’s qualifications, reviewing her hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and meeting with her personally, I will vote to confirm her to be the Secretary of the Department of the Interior,” Collins said in a Wednesday statement first obtained by HuffPost.
Haaland, who is currently a Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, is awaiting her vote out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. That vote is scheduled for Thursday and she is expected to advance. From there, her nomination will head to the full Senate for a final confirmation vote.
Collins said that while she and Haaland “certainly have different views on some issues,” she appreciates the congresswoman’s commitment to working with Republicans and her understanding of environmental and tribal issues.
“Her role in helping to shepherd the Great American Outdoors Act through the House will be beneficial to the Department’s implementation of this landmark conservation law, which I cosponsored,” Collins said. “I also appreciate Representative Haaland’s willingness to support issues important to the State of Maine, such as Acadia National Park, as well as her deep knowledge of tribal issues, which has earned her the support of tribes across the country, including those in Maine.”
She added, “Representative Haaland promised to be bipartisan in her new role at the Department of the Interior, and I look forward to working with her.”
If confirmed, Haaland will make history as the nation’s first-ever Native American Cabinet secretary. Her nomination to lead the Interior Department is particularly significant given its responsibility for managing the country’s natural resources and honoring the federal government’s commitments to tribes, which it has failed to do time and time again.
The seismic shift of putting an Indigenous woman in charge of the department with oversight of public lands ― from which tribes were forcibly removed by the U.S. government ― is not lost on Haaland.
“The symbolism alone, yes, it’s profound,” she told HuffPost in November, when her name was being floated as a possible nominee.
During her confirmation hearing last week, Republican Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.) and Steve Daines (Mont.) tried to cast Haaland as “radical” for wanting to protect public land and air as interior secretary. They also lectured her on the importance of following science, despite their own records of dismissing basic climate science.
But Haaland’s GOP critics in the Senate know she is not extreme or anti-science. They watched conservative Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) rave about her record of bipartisanship in her Senate confirmation hearing. They might even know that Haaland, the former chair of the House Natural Resources subcommittee with oversight authority for the Interior Department, introduced more bipartisan bills than any of her House colleagues in 2019.
What’s really going on is that senators like Barrasso and Daines have taken millions of dollars from the oil and gas industry, which wants to expand drilling on the same public lands that Biden and Haaland want to protect.
Haaland is all but certain to be confirmed. The question is simply how many Republicans will support her historic nomination along the way.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) could be Haaland’s second GOP backer, given her long record of work with Alaska’s tribes and their very strong support for Haaland. She also knows she wouldn’t have her Senate seat without them.
The Alaska senator is staying mum for now, though.
“The senator is still in the process of vetting the nominee and hasn’t announced how she will vote,” Murkowski spokeswoman Hannah Ray said Tuesday.
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