Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) is a solid no vote on Secretary of Interior nominee Rep. Deb Haaland, but it might not be enough to block her nomination.
Sen. Daines announced his opposition Wednesday following a two-day hearing in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
“The Secretary of the Interior should be a consensus-builder, with a pragmatic and well-balanced track record. I’m concerned Rep. Haaland will be unable to separate from her progressive agenda and support what's best for Montana and the West,” Daines said in an interview with MTN News. “Her hostile record towards energy, natural resources and sportsmen issues are very concerning.”
Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico told committee members Monday, “fossil fuels will play a major role in our energy future. But we must strike a balance to address climate change.”
If confirmed, Haaland would become the first Native American to be appointed to a cabinet-level position. Her nomination is supported by tribes around the nation, including the Crow Tribe in Montana.
"The Crow Tribe and People support the first Native woman to be nominated for Secretary of the Interior," Tribal Chairman Frank White Clay said in a statement. "This critical role requires a careful balancing of interests and the Crow believes that Representative Deb Haaland will do just that to steward our shared resources."
"There are many issues that desperately need to be addressed on reservations beyond energy development and regulation, such as embarrassingly substandard housing, inadequate law enforcement, and the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women, to name just a few," the statement continued. "Rep. Haaland's nomination both breaks new ground and builds bridges beyond Indian Country and she will be a strong advocate for all Americans."
Haaland received a key endorsement Wednesday from centrist Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, chairman of the committee.
“While we do not agree on every issue, she reaffirmed her strong commitment to bipartisanship, addressing the diverse needs of our country and maintaining our nation’s energy independence,” Manchin said in a statement.
Manchin's support was seen as key for Haaland's confirmation in what is expected to be a close vote. The Senate is split 50-50, and Democrats hold a potential tie-breaking vote in Vice President Kamala Harris.
During the second day of hearings, Haaland argued that her role as interior secretary would be very different from her role as an elected member of the House of Representatives.
"The role of a congresswoman in one district in the country is much different than the role of a secretary who is fighting and working for every single American and all of our public lands across the country. Those are two different things, I recognize that," Haaland said.
The assertion came after Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the ranking Republican member on the committee, confronted Haaland over past statements she has made, including that she is "wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public lands."
After Barrasso brought up the past comments, he said the committee wants to know how Haaland would advise Biden as President if confirmed.