Haaland faces second day of confirmation hearing questions over Interior nomination


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The Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, who would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary if confirmed by the Senate, pledged to work in service of the Biden administration during the first day of the hearing on Tuesday as Republicans on the panel expressed concern over her nomination and described her views as radical.

Republicans have repeatedly argued that the Biden administration is going to kill jobs through its clean energy agenda, which Haaland supports. If confirmed, Haaland would be part of Biden’s plan to tackle the climate crisis and reduce carbon emissions.

In her opening statement, Haaland attempted to strike a delicate balance on energy and environmental policy, saying, “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 contended that “the Department has a role in harnessing the clean energy potential of our public lands to create jobs and new economic opportunities.”

Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the ranking member on the committee, said that he feels “troubled” by some of Haaland’s positions on climate and energy issues, while Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana said he is “concerned” about proceeding with the nomination.

In one contentious exchange, Barrasso confronted Haaland over a tweet from October 2020 in which she said that Republicans don’t believe in science. The GOP senator pointed out that he and several other Republican members of the committee are medical doctors and called the remark “concerning.”

“Do you think that as medical doctors we don’t believe in science? How do you stand by this statement,” Barrasso asked.

“Senator, yes, if you’re a doctor, I would assume that you believe in science,” Haaland replied.

Haaland also repeatedly declined to give her personal opinions in the face of pointed questions from Republican senators during the hearing, saying instead that she would carry out Biden’s agenda.

When Daines asked Haaland if she supports a ban on fracking and no new pipelines, she replied, “President Biden does not support a ban on fracking is my understanding.” When the GOP senator pressed again, Haaland said, “If I am confirmed as secretary, I would be serving at the pleasure of the President and it would be his agenda that I would move forward.”

Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the chairman of the committee, has not yet said if he will vote to confirm Haaland.

Manchin did not tip his hand during Tuesday’s hearing, saying that he believes a president deserves “wide latitude” in the selection of his Cabinet nominees, but added, “I also take the Senate’s constitutional obligation to advise and consent to the President’s nomination seriously.”

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