Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted Thursday for President Biden’s interior secretary nominee, Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., sending her nomination to the full Senate.
The Energy and Natural Resources panel voted 11-9 to approve Haaland’s nomination.
Another Republican, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has signaled she will vote to confirm Haaland, setting up a likely 52-48 successful confirmation.
“I’m going to place my trust in Rep. Haaland and her team despite some very real misgivings,” Murkowski said before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday.
She said she had heard two differing sentiments from Alaskans on Haaland’s nomination to lead the Interior Department. On one hand, they were “enormously proud” to have a Native American nominated to the spot. “They believe Alaskan Native issues can be elevated to the highest level of government,” she said. Haaland would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in a position that oversees the nation’s tribes.
At the same time, Murkowski said Alaskans were concerned about Haaland’s opposition to resource development on public lands.
“We have more federal lands we have more mineral resources we have more natural hazards than any other state,” she said, noting that the Interior Department plays an “outsized role” in Alaska.
Biden in January issued an executive order directing the Interior Department to place a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, along with all other federal lands.
“Weighing on top of all this is in my experience from the Obama administration when I voted for a secretary who promised to be a good partner for Alaska but proved to be anything but,” Murkowski added, in what appeared to be a swipe at former Interior Secretary Richard Jewell. Murkowski had voted for Jewell in 2013 after some arm-twisting but later condemned him for enabling an “unprecedented attack on our ability to responsibly bring these resources to market.”
She added at the time in 2015 Obama had “withdrawn over 22 million more acres of Alaska from energy production just in recent weeks, and that has occurred on top of many other restrictions and regulations being imposed on us.”
During a confirmation hearing last month, Murkowski pressed Haaland on the order.
“So if you are confirmed to this very significant position, what is your approach going to be with regards to oil, and gas and mineral resource development within a state like Alaska?” the Alaskan senator said.
“I know that President Biden doesn’t want to cripple any state,” Haaland replied, adding that she wanted to work with Murkowski to help Alaskans get the opportunities “they need.”
The nominee continued: “He put the pause on the new leases in order to review the program. I want you to know that if I’m confirmed, I will rely heavily on our relationship moving forward. I do want to work with you. I do want to make sure that I understand the unique issues in Alaska, and to make sure we are doing all we can to ensure that your constituents have the opportunities that they need.”