On Thursday, March 4, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance Congresswoman Debra Haaland’s nomination as Interior Secretary to a full Senate vote. The committee passed the nomination 11-9, with two Republican senators voting in favor of Haaland, including Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
In Alaska, Murkowski finds herself caught between the enthusiasm of her Indigenous constituents and her support for fossil fuels. “I have decided to support this nomination today to support the first Native American who will hold this position, and with the expectation that Rep. Haaland will be true to her word. Not just on matters relating to Native peoples, but also responsible resource development and every other issue,” said Murkowski of her vote.
Many Alaska Natives support Halaand’s historic nomination, regardless of where they stand on resource extraction. Last week, 127 Alaska Native women from all over the state co-authored a letter declaring their support for Haaland’s nomination, citing massive underrepresentation of Indigenous leadership at the helm of this crucial department. If confirmed, Haaland would become the first Indigeous Interior Secretary, a position with the most oversight over U.S. relations with tribes.
But Murkowski has made it her mission to see oilfields like the North Slope’s Willow project through. As a representative Haaland was opposed to projects like this, but has said that as Interior Secretary she’ll be working at President Biden’s behest.
Murkowski said that it was a tough choice. She deliberated long and hard, listened, and asked many questions during the two days of confirmation hearings last month. She’s also met with Haaland on two occasions since then. But in the end, the historic nature of Haaland’s nomination won out.
Haaland’s nomination will likely pass in the Democrat-led Senate, where just a simple majority vote is needed. Alaska’s other senator, Dan Sullivan, has not said whether he will support Haaland in the full Senate vote.