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Tester To Confirm Haaland, Daines To Block

Steve Daines speaks into a microphone. Behind him printed on a large poster on an easel reads, "'If I had my way, it'd be great to stop all gas and oil leasing on federal and public lands.' - Rep. Deb Haaland 11/19/2020".
Screenshot, U.S. Senate
Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines questions Rep. Deb Haaland during her Secretary of the Interior nomination hearing.

One of Montana’s Senators says he’ll vote to confirm President Biden’s Secretary of the Interior nominee, while the other says he’ll move to block her nomination.

The two day hearing to determine if Rep. Deb Haaland should lead the federal department in charge of tribal education, the Bureau of Land Management and national parks, among others, concluded Wednesday. The New Mexican Congresswoman could make history.

"If confirmed, I would be the first Native American to serve as cabinet secretary," she said in her opening statement.

While many tribal nations in Montana, most recently the Crow Nation, support Haaland’s confirmation, Montana’s Republican Sen. Steve Daines has come out as one of Haaland’s strongest opponents. He questioned the Congresswoman three separate times during the unusually long confirmation hearing.

"Do you support a ban on fracking and no new pipelines?" Daines asked.

"Senator, Pres. Biden does not support a ban on fracking is my understanding. And it would be his agenda that we would—" Haaland said.

"Yeah, but do you personally support a ban on fracking and no new pipelines?" Daines pressed.

"Senator, if I could say? 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," Haaland said.

While Sen. Daines questioned Rep. Haaland about critical minerals, trapping, semi-automatic weapon bans and Grizzly bear management, he did not ask her about how she will handle oversight of Interior programs that impact Native Americans, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

On the second day of testimony, Sen. Daines continued to press for Rep. Haaland’s personal political views.

"Isn't the role of a cabinet secretary to advise the President on these important issues? Not just follow him blindly?" Daines asked.

"Senator, the way I have always taken any position I've had, is I feel that I'm part of a team. And if I'm confirmed, it's working with all of the other cabinet secretaries, as well as with Pres. Biden," Haaland said.

Following Wednesday’s hearing, Sen. Daines said he will work to block and defeat Haaland’s nomination, calling her a “hardline ideologue with radical views out of touch with Montana and the West.”

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester said Tuesday he will vote to confirm the Congresswoman. Senate Energy Chair Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, also said he will vote to confirm Haaland.

The Senate has not yet scheduled the vote on Haaland’s confirmation.

Kaitlyn Nicholas is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America Indigenous affairs reporter.

Kaitlyn Nicholas covers tribal news in Montana.