If confirmed by the Senate, Deb Haaland, who currently represents New Mexico in the House of Representatives, will become the first Indigenous 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,” she said during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee. “We want to protect this country, and that means protecting it in every single way.”
Fitting for the head of a department that manages 500 million acres of public land and the United States government’s relationship with tribal nations.
Unfortunately, the committee’s Republican senators don’t seem to share her sense of common purpose. Rather than using the hearing as a chance to explore Haaland’s vision for the DOI’s future, they treated it as an opportunity to push disinformation and disparage the nominee’s character. Let’s fact check some of the most egregious attacks.
The Claim: Haaland Is a “Radical”
This assertion comes from Senator Steve Daines, a republican from Montana, who said, “I’m not convinced the congresswoman can divorce her radical views and represent what’s best for Montana and all stakeholders in the West. Unless my concerns are addressed, I will block her confirmation.” And from Senator John Barrasso, a republican from Wyoming, who said Haaland’s, “radical views are squarely at odds with the responsible management of our nation’s energy resources.”
The Reality: Haaland Has the Strongest Bipartisan Record in Congress
According to GovTrack’s 2019 report card, Haaland got more bicameral (from both houses of congress) support for her bills than any other representative, had more bills sponsored by committee chairs than any other congressperson, and received more bipartisan support for her bills than any other freshman.
Testifying at the hearing, in support of Haaland’s confirmation, republican representative Don Young, from Alaska said, “I would suggest respectfully you’ll find out that she will listen to you.”
The League of Conservation Voters, a non-partisan environmental advocacy group, gives Haaland a 98 percent lifetime score. Her nomination has drawn near universal support from environmental groups and tribal leaders.
The Hypocrisy: GOP Senators Supported Pendley
Both Daines and Barroso supported the eventually withdrawn nomination of William Perry Pendley to run the Bureau of Land Management. If anyone’s a radical, it’s Pendley. Not only did the former deputy director of policy and programs participate in an illegal scheme to run BLM without congressional approval, but he’s been working to transfer public lands to private ownership since the Reagan administration. Pendley also has an incredibly problematic history of racist, xenophobic, and anti-Indigenous, anti-LGBT rhetoric.
The Claim: Biden’s Energy Policies Will Cost Jobs
“You had said you will work your heart out for everyone, including fossil fuel workers,” said Wyoming senator Barrasso. “Why not let those workers keep their jobs?”
Barraso went on to claim that President Biden’s order to temporarily pause new oil and gas leases on public lands would cost over 30,000 jobs in his home state.
The Reality: That’s a Lie
Barrasso is citing an American Petroleum Institute press release that conflates the temporary pause with a total ban for drilling on public lands. It’s hard to understand where API gets that 30,000 jobs number, given that the Petroleum Association of Wyoming states that the oil and gas industry employs only 19,000 people in the state.
In response, Haaland emphasized that Biden’s lease moratorium is only temporary and that the pause is not expected to impact the construction of new oil drills or oil exploration. “Fossil fuels will continue to play a major role in America for years to come,” she testified.
The Hypocrisy: Lease Pause Is Actually Good for Oil and Gas
The oil and gas industry is currently suffering from a glut of supply amid globally depressed demand. It’s expected that by temporarily restricting supply, the lease pause could boost oil and gas stock prices without increasing demand for foreign oil. That makes Barrosso’s lies about lost jobs confusing, given that he took $ 584,487 in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry between 2015 and 2020. Executives from those companies are currently benefiting from Biden’s policies.
The Claim: Haaland Is Anti-Hunting
Montana Senator Daines repeatedly suggested that Haaland would be a threat to hunting access on public lands. He asked: “Why should congress believe you will expand and protect our shooting opportunities on public lands?”
The Reality: Haaland Is a Hunter
“I’m a Pueblo woman,” Haaland said in response. “We’ve been hunting on public lands for centuries. My dad and grandparents and brother, they all hunt. I myself was fortunate to harvest an oryx from the White Sands Missile Range, which fed my family for about a year. I respect the sportsmen and the anglers.”
The Hypocrisy: Daines Threatens Hunting
Daines, who once posed for a hunting selfie alongside now-governor Greg Gianforte on what the pair implied to be public land, but turned out to be a high-dollar ranch, is one of the biggest threats hunting faces in Montana, where I live.
In 2017, he introduced legislation that would have stripped protections from 450,000 acres of prime elk habitat in the state. The Missoulian called Daines’ bill, “the single biggest rollback of protected public lands in Montana history.”
With the committee hearing now wrapped, the next step is a vote, which will take Haaland’s confirmation process in front of the full Senate. On Wednesday, Joe Manchin, a democrat representing West Virginia, announced he would vote to confirm her. Even if GOP senators continue to try and frustrate the process, Manchin’s endorsement all but guarantees Haaland’s confirmation.