The confirmation hearing for Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) to become Joe Biden’s secretary of the Interior (and the first Native American Cabinet secretary ever) got started today, and while the hearing touched on her ability to do the job, it quickly turned into a proxy fight over energy policy, with Republicans insisting that we can’t keep the planet habitable for large mammals like themselves and their grandchildren, because it would be bad for the oil business. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like Republicans will be able to block Haaland’s nomination, since GOP Sen. Don Young of Alaska lobbied Biden to nominate Haaland. In the unlikely event that Haaland ends up being opposed by West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (D-Coal) and all the other Republicans (I know what I wrote), then Kamala Harris could break the tie to confirm her.
As a public service, HuffPo senior politics reporter Jennifer Bendery put together a handy chart of campaign money given to each Republican on the committee, listing contributions for the 2020 election cycle as well as for each member’s congressional career, including time in the House, if any.
Data from the Accountable Senate War Room.
Would it surprise you that none of the 10 Republicans on the committee have zero oil and gas contributions?
Sen John Barrasso ($1.17 million in oil money) worried, as would most Republicans who followed, that Haaland would pursue a “radical” agenda at Interior, which means she would put in place Joe Biden’s clean energy agenda. On top of that, Barrasso was very, very hurt and sad because during the October 2020 vice presidential debate, Haaland tweeted, “Republicans don’t believe in science,” only with clapping hands emojis between each word. Well how dare she say such a thing, just because vast majorities of Republicans think climate change is either fake or no big deal, and many also reject basic public health measures. Pointing out that he and two other Republicans on the committee are all MDs, Barrasso asked, “Do you think that as medical doctors we don’t believe in science? How do you stand by this statement?”
Haaland was at least willing to acknowledge that not all Republicans reject all science, probably: “Senator, yes, if you’re a doctor, I would assume that you believe in science.”
Doctor Scientist Barrasso, we’d note, has consistently blocked legislation on addressing climate change, although he has at least made noises about the problem being real, especially if it means more nuclear power plants. Doctor Scientist Steve Daines of Montana ($1.18 million in oil money) actually doesn’t believe in non-medical science, telling the Bozeman Daily Chronicle in 2019 that “To suggest that [climate change is] human-caused is not a sound scientific conclusion,” and insisting that natural factors are probably very important because “the climate is always changing” (DRINK!). Doctor Scientist Bill Cassidy of Louisiana ($1.68 million in oil money) has said that reducing greenhouse gas emissions might “theoretically” help prevent sea level rise, but he also wants to keep burning natural gas because it’s so wonderful, even though natural gas drilling is a serious source of greenhouse emissions.
Still, not all the questioning was hostile. As we note, Don Young praised Haaland’s bipartisanship as chair of the House Natural Resources subcommittee, which has oversight of the Interior Department, and said that Haaland, as an Indigenous American, would really be a great pick for Interior, which has a great deal of control over Native American policy. As for the main GOP talking point against her, Young laughed it off, noting that the transition from fossil fuel isn’t going to happen next week: “Anybody who thinks you’re gonna cut off fossil fuel immediately is smoking pot, that’s legal in the state Alaska by the way,” he added.
Mike Lee (R-Utah; just $366,400 in oil money) took his time to fret that it would be just terrible if Biden follows through on his promise to restore two national monuments to their original boundaries after a previous president tried to shrink them. Haaland replied that she was a bit jealous of Lee’s being from Utah, because “You have so much beautiful land there.” That flattery went nowhere with Lee, who said that being designated a monument didn’t make the land any prettier, but would only make nearby communities “more impoverished.” Because nothing preserves natural beauty like oil wells.
Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) said the US government’s treatment of Indigenous Americans “has been nothing less than shameful,” and asked how Haaland would improve life for Native Americans and improve the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She listed several priorities, like addressing the horrific (and epidemic) cases of Indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing, as well as the toll the pandemic has taken on people of color, especially Native Americans. She added that an “excellent start” would be to expand the availability of broadband internet on reservations, both so kids can be educated during lockdowns, and to expand telemedicine.
When Montana’s Steve Daines got his turn, he said “radical” and “jobs” a lot, and asked Haaland why, if she’s so pro-science, she “cosponsored a bill to provide federal protections the grizzly bear,” even though scientists say we have plenty of grizzlies already. Haaland simply replied, “I imagine at the time I was caring about the bears.” Probably doesn’t even want guns on campus or in outhouses for bear-shooting purposes, what is even with this lady!
Cassidy tried a similar strategy, asking her how she could possibly say she supports following the science, when a 2019 State Department paper said that cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline would actually result in worse greenhouse emissions, and how can she support killing “11,000 current or future jobs” (he didn’t mention that virtually all would be short-term construction jobs). We couldn’t really find any details on Cassidy’s claim about that State Department paper, though we did see a similar argument that the oil would still be pumped in Canada anyway, just shipped to other locations than refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, where Cassidy gets his campaign cash. By contrast, a 2014 study found that the Keystone XL would increase emissions far beyond even the Obama State Department’s findings, so we’re not inclined to buy whatever “science” came from Mike Pompeo’s State Department in 2019. Haaland politely said she’d look at any paper the senator cared to share.
Throughout it all, Republicans harped on jobs, jobs jobs, and Haaland nodded politely and said she too cares about jobs; she might have somewhat more forcefully pushed the point, as she has elsewhere, that the shift to green energy will create millions more jobs, while reducing the damage done to people’s health and the environment. Manchin paused the hearing for the day so the senators could go do senator stuff, and then the next rounds of questions will follow tomorrow.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please donate $5 to $10 a month, unless you happen to have oil company-style money to give us.