Democratic Senator Joe Manchin will throw his support behind Congresswoman Deb Haaland to lead the Biden administration’s Interior Department, he said in a statement on Wednesday, likely securing her confirmation to become the first Native American in a cabinet position.
Manchin’s “yes” vote is seen as crucial to Haaland’s confirmation because he is a supporter of fossil fuel development who wields significant power in a U.S. Congress split 50-50 among Democrats and Republicans, meaning every Democratic backer counts. He had previously said that he was undecided on her bid.
As Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Manchin oversaw the two-day hearing this week.
“While we do not agree on every issue, (Haaland) 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. “For all these reasons, I believe Deb Haaland will be a Secretary of the Interior for every American and will vote to confirm her.”
Haaland’s Senate confirmation hearing this week was contentious, with Republicans focusing on her past opposition to fossil fuel projects, as well as her likely role as a key player in President Joe Biden’s efforts to combat climate change.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Sen. James Risch (R-ID) pressed Haaland repeatedly on whether she supports Biden’s decision to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline. Haaland first stated she supports Biden’s decision.
“I feel very confident that the President, his decision — I mean I have to respect it, sir. He is the President of the United States,” Haaland replied.
Risch followed up several times asking if she personally supports shutting down the pipeline. Haaland finally answered, “Senator, if I say that I support President Biden’s agenda, I assume that you could take my answer as a yes.”
The U.S. Interior Department oversees around a fifth of the nation’s land surface along with offshore waters, accounting for around 25% of domestic oil and gas production. Biden has paused new drilling leasing on federal lands, and has said he wants to eventually impose a permanent ban on new drilling and encourage broader development of renewables instead.
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Haaland did make an effort in her opening statement to strike a balance between energy and Biden’s climate control efforts. “There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come.” But, she added, “Our climate challenge must be addressed,” and she stated that “the Department has a role in harnessing the clean energy potential of our public lands to create jobs and new economic opportunities.”
It seems Haaland is not the only one riding a fence. During the hearing, Manchin said he supported reducing methane emissions from pipelines on federal lands and the administration’s review of the oil and gas leasing program.
Reuters contributed to this report.
ARTICLE SOURCE: thefederalistpapers.org