Joe Biden picks Native American Deb Haaland to lead Department of Interior

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Rep. Deb Haaland to lead the Department of Interior, a historic pick in the Haaland will be the first Native American put in charge of the agency that oversees tribal lands.  

Haaland, who just won a second term in the U.S. House, was supported by a broad coalition of tribal leaders and activists, mainstream Democrats, progressive activists and Hollywood stars. 

While Haaland leaving the House will give the Democrats an even smaller majority, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wouldn’t get in the way, calling the freshman New Mexico congresswoman, ‘one of the most respected and one of the best members of Congress I have served with.’ 

President-elect Joe Biden has picked Rep. Deb Haaland to be secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American to lead the agency that oversees tribal lands

President-elect Joe Biden has picked Rep. Deb Haaland to be secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American to lead the agency that oversees tribal lands 

President-elect Joe Biden had been encouraged to pick Haaland by a broad coalition of tribal groups, mainstream Democrats, progressive activists and Hollywood stars

President-elect Joe Biden had been encouraged to pick Haaland by a broad coalition of tribal groups, mainstream Democrats, progressive activists and Hollywood stars 

‘I am so proud that, as one of the first Native American women to have served in Congress, she serves as Chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands,’ Pelosi said, according to The Washington Post. ‘Congressman Haaland knows the territory, and if she is the president-elect’s choice for Interior Secretary, then he will have made an excellent choice.’ 

Haaland joined the swell of Democratic women joining the Congress in 2019, alongside Rep. Sharice Davids, a Kansas Democrat. 

The two of them made history together as the first two Native American women to be elected to serve in Congress. 

If she’s confirmed, Haaland will be the first Native American to run the Interior Department, but she won’t the top-ranking Native American official ever. 

That distinction goes to former Vice President Charles Curtis, who served from 1929 to 1933, and was a member of the Kaw Nation. 

Haaland had the support of the progressive left, with groups including the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, pressuring Biden’s team to make Haaland his pick. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a top progressive in the House, told reporters Thursday afternoon, ‘I’m over the moon right now.’  

‘I think the Biden climate appointments, they represent progress, real progress, so I’m really excited, I’m so thrilled, especially, I mean, Deb’s appointment is not just historic, it’s … historic on multiple levels, you know?’ 

‘Congresswoman Haaland would not just repsent the first native woman in charge of federal lands, but she brings a philosophy of both a commitment on climate and justice and the historic weight of having a native woman, no less a progressive one, in charge of federal lands, is pretty enormous,’ Ocasio-Cortez added. 

She also had the support of a number of Hollywood stars, including Mark Ruffalo, a vocal supporter of Native American land rights, as well as Marisa Tomei, Kerry Washington, America Ferrera, Mandy Moore and Cher.     

Haaland will be charged with implementing part of Biden’s desired transition to green energy. 

She talked to The Washington Post about how she would do that, while balancing out job concerns.

‘I come from New Mexico. It’s a big gas and oil state. And I care about every single job,’ Haaland told the paper.

That being said, she added, ‘We don’t want to go back to normal, right? We don’t want to go back to where we were because that economy wasn’t working for a lot of people.’ 

Interior manages about a fifth of land in the United States, including national parks. 

Biden has vowed to halt new oil and gas drilling contracts, a flip-flop from the more environmentally permissive Trump administration. 

On Thursday, Biden’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency was also revealed. 

Biden chose Michael Regan, he secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. He previously worked for the Environmental Defense Fund. 

If he’s Senate-confirmed, Regan will be the first black person to head the agency. 

Biden has plucked two additional House members away from the Democratic caucus for Biden-Harris administration jobs: Rep. Cedric Richmond, who will head the White House Office of Public Engagement, and Rep. Marcia Fudge, tapped to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

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