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President Joe Biden's nominee to head the Interior Department faced sharp questions from Republicans Tuesday over what several called her "radical" ideas that include opposition to fracking and the Keystone XL oil pipeline. 

Deb Haaland, a New Mexico congresswoman named to lead the Interior Department, tried to reassure GOP lawmakers, saying she is committed to "strike the right balance" as Interior manages oil drilling and other energy development while seeking to conserve public lands and address climate change.

 

If confirmed, Haaland, 60, would be the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency.  

Native Americans see her nomination as the best chance to move from consultation on tribal issues to consent and to put more land into the hands of tribal nations either outright or through stewardship agreements. The Interior Department has broad oversight over nearly 600 federally recognized tribes as well as energy development and other uses for the nation's sprawling federal lands. 

"The historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say that it is not about me," Haaland testified. "Rather, I hope this nomination would be an inspiration for Americans — moving forward together as one nation and creating opportunities for all of us." 

Haaland's hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was adjourned after nearly 2 1/2 hours and will resume Wednesday. 

Chairman Joe Manchin, D-WV, speaks during the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 23, 2021.

Under questioning from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the panel's chairman, Haaland said the U.S. will continue to rely on fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas even as it moves toward Biden's goal of net zero carbon emissions by mid-century. The transition to clean energy "is not going to happen overnight," she said. 

Manchin, who is publicly undecided on Haaland's nomination, appeared relieved, saying he supports "innovation, not elimination" of fossil fuels. 

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., was less impressed. He displayed a large chart featuring a quote from last November, before Haaland was selected to lead Interior, in which she said: "If I had my way, it'd be great to stop all gas and oil leasing on federal and public lands." 

A board is put up as Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., speaks during the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 23, 2021.

If confirmed as Interior secretary, "you will get to have it your way,'' Daines told Haaland. 

She replied that Biden's vision — not hers — will set the course for Interior. "It is President Biden's agenda, not my own agenda, that I will be moving forward,'' Haaland said, an answer she repeated several times. 

While Biden imposed a moratorium on oil and gas drilling on federal lands — which doesn't apply to tribal lands — he has repeatedly said he does not oppose fracking. Biden rejected the long-pIanned Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office. 

Haaland also faced questions over her appearance at protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota before she was elected to Congress in 2018. 

Haaland said she went there in solidarity with Native American tribes and other "water protectors" who "felt they were not consulted in the best way'' before the multi-state oil pipeline was approved. 

Asked by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., if she would oppose a renewal of the pipeline permit, Haaland said she would first ensure that tribes are properly consulted. She told Hoeven she also would "listen to you and consult with you.'' 

FILE - Protesters pray during a rally against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, Feb. 22, 2017.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the GOP questions over oil drilling and pipelines revealed a partisan divide in the committee.  

"I almost feel like your nomination is this proxy fight about the future of fossil fuels," Cantwell said, adding that Haaland had made clear her intention to carry out Biden's clean-energy agenda. She and other Democrats "very much appreciate the fact that you're doing that, and that's what I think a president deserves with his nominee,'' Cantwell said. 

Early years

In her opening statement, Haaland told lawmakers that as the daughter of a Pueblo woman, she learned early to value hard work. Her mother is a Navy veteran and worked for a quarter-century at the Bureau of Indian Education, an Interior Department agency. 

Her father was a Marine who served in Vietnam. He received the Silver Star and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. 

"As a military family, we moved every few years ... but no matter where we lived, my dad taught me and my siblings to appreciate nature, whether on a mountain trail or walking along the beach,'' Haaland said.  

The future congresswoman spent summers with her grandparents in a Laguna Pueblo village. "It was in the cornfields with my grandfather where I learned the importance of water and protecting our resources and where I gained a deep respect for the Earth,'' she said. 

Haaland pledged to lead the Interior Department with honor and integrity and said she will be "a fierce advocate for our public lands." 

She promised to listen to and work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and ensure that decisions are based on science. She also vowed to "honor the sovereignty of tribal nations and recognize their part in America's story.'' 

Racial overtones

Some Democrats and Native American advocates called the frequent description of Haaland as "radical" a loaded reference to her tribal status. 

"That kind of language is sort of a dog whistle for certain folks that see somebody who is an Indigenous woman potentially being in a position of power," said Ta'jin Perez with the group Western Native Voice.  

In an op-ed in USA Today, former Sens. Mark and Tom Udall said Haaland's record "is in line with mainstream conservation priorities. Thus, the exceptional criticism of Rep. Haaland and the threatened holds on her nomination must be motivated by something other than her record.'' 

Mark Udall is a former Colorado senator, while cousin Tom Udall just retired as a New Mexico senator. Tom Udall's father, Stewart, was Interior secretary in the 1960s. 

Daines called the notion of racial overtones in his remarks outrageous. 

"I would love to see a Native American serve in the Cabinet. That would be a proud moment for all of us in this country. But this is about her record and her views," he said in an interview. 

National civil rights groups have joined forces with tribal leaders and environmental groups in supporting Haaland. A letter signed by nearly 500 national and regional organizations calls her "a proven leader and the right person to lead the charge against the existential threats of our time,'' including climate change and racial justice issues on federal lands. 
 

News Source: Voice of America

Tags: haaland as interior secretary energy development on federal lands oil drilling native american fossil fuels climate change moving forward her nomination questions over for all of us north dakota public lands oil pipeline if confirmed steve daines a new mexico clean energy and said she ensure against joe manchin keystone xl

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Graham: Trump will be helpful to all Senate GOP incumbents

GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamJohn Boehner tells Cruz to 'go f--- yourself' in unscripted audiobook asides: report Parliamentarian nixes minimum wage hike in coronavirus bill McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE (R-S.C.) pledged on Friday that former President TrumpDonald TrumpDonald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE will "be helpful" to Senate GOP incumbents on the ballot in 2022, as Republicans increasingly turn their focus to the midterms. 

"The president is going to be helpful to all Republican incumbents on the Senate. We've got a great slate of incumbents," Graham said during an interview with Fox News Radio. 

He added that Trump would be "working with our incumbents" and "helping" Republicans try to unseat Democrats in Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire.

Trump endorsed Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Senate votes to hear witnesses in Trump trial Senate panel advances Biden's education and labor secretary picks MORE's (R-Kansas) reelection bid this week, and Graham noted on Friday that they had also been on the phone with Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungBiden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Republican 2024 hopefuls draw early battle lines for post-Trump era Senate Democrats approve budget resolution, teeing up coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ind.). 

Trump hasn't publicly committed to supporting every GOP Senate incumbent. He's encouraged a primary challenge against Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiWashington Post denounces abuse of reporter Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination Mean tweets may take down Biden nominee MORE (R-Alaska) and John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneCruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director Senate GOP works to avoid having '22 war with Trump Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy MORE (R-S.D.), who are up for reelection, and warned in a statement that he was willing to get involved in GOP primaries in order to support candidates who align with him. 

But Graham's comments come as Senate Republicans are increasingly trying to ease tensions with Trump, which spiked in the wake of the January 6 attack on the Capitol and the subsequent impeachment trial. 

Republicans openly fumed at Trump after the attack, where a mob of his supporters stormed the building in an effort to stop the counting of the Electoral College vote. And seven GOP senators voted to convict him of inciting an insurrection as part of the Senate trial. 

But Trump has maintained a vise-like grip on the party's base, who Republicans will need if they want to win back the House or the Senate next year and they've watched as lawmakers who broke with Trump on impeachment have faced backlash back home. Republicans are defending 20 seats in 2022, many of which are in red states where Trump remains popular. 

Underscoring the shifting political grounds, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMinimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE (R-Ky.)—who offered a blistering critique of Trump just weeks ago calling him "morally responsible" for the attack—said on Thursday night that he would support Trump if he wins the party's 2024 nomination. 

"The nominee of the party? Absolutely," McConnell said during an interview with Fox News's Bret Baier.

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"There's a lot to happen between now and '24. I've got at least four members that I think are planning on running for president," he added. 

McConnell's comments came after Trump lashed out at him in response to his floor speech, calling him "a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack.”

The dust-up sparked talk of a GOP civil war, and earned McConnell criticism from the president's allies, including Graham and Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonCruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director Pelosi: Dems want commission focused on Capitol mob attack Pelosi jokes about Sen. 'Don' Johnson MORE (R-Wis.). 

Until the Fox News interview, McConnell had largely declined to talk about Trump since his floor speech including sidestepping questions during his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill. 

Tags Mitch McConnell Lisa Murkowski Lindsey Graham Donald Trump Ron Johnson Jerry Moran Mitt Romney John Thune Todd Young 2022 midterm elections GOP primaries

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