Sen. Susan Collins, a key moderate Republican from Maine, said Wednesday she will vote to confirm Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland as Interior secretary, further securing a likely successful confirmation for one of President Joe Biden’s nominees.
“After examining Representative Deb Haaland’s qualifications, reviewing her hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and meeting with her personally, I will vote to confirm her to be the Secretary of the Department of the Interior,” Collins said in a statement.
Collins’ backing, after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced last week he would also vote to confirm, gives Haaland a greater likelihood at being approved by the Senate, which has a 50-50 partisan split. Collins is the first Republican senator to announce her support for Haaland to lead the Interior Department.
In her announcement, Collins said she appreciated Haaland’s “willingness to support issues” important to Maine and her “deep knowledge of tribal issues.”
She also pointed to Haaland’s role shepherding the Great American Outdoors Act through the House as a Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, arguing that it will be “beneficial to the Department’s implementation of this landmark conservation law.” Collins was a cosponsor of the legislation, which was signed into law last year.
“Representative Haaland promised to be bipartisan in her new role at the Department of the Interior, and I look forward to working with her,” Collins said.
During her confirmation hearing last week, Haaland faced sharp questioning from Republican senators, who painted her as partisan and her views on public land use and fossil fuels as radical.
If confirmed, Haaland would become the first Native American Cabinet secretary and the first Native American to lead the Interior department.
So far, 13 of Biden’s 23 Cabinet-level nominees — several of whom would make history as the first woman or person of color to serve in their role — requiring Senate approval have been confirmed.
But the slow and contentious process of getting Biden’s nominees confirmed is leading progressive groups to question whether his nominees of color are facing a higher level of scrutiny than White male nominees of past administrations.
On Tuesday, Biden had his first major setback in filling his Cabinet as Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination to run the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden, who would have been the first South Asian woman to run OMB, faced fierce opposition from Senate Republicans and some Democrats over her past statements on social media, which some called sexist and hypocritical.