'She became an easy target’: GOP opposition to Haaland rankles Native Americans

Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo, was a harsh critic of fossil fuel development, an attitude that made her nomination one of the most controversial of Biden’s picks. The Democratic Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Joe Manchin, who is the most fossil fuel Democrat and whose opposition may have sunk another Biden candidate, Neera Tanden, could face a difficult question.

Haaland has been a rising star among progressives since being elected to Congress in 2018. She grew up in poverty, and official records show that she is still paying back loans from the 2006 University of New Mexico law school. In 2012 she worked on former President Barack Obama’s campaign in the state and later headed the state’s Democratic Party, where she was credited with repairing her finances and rebuilding them after election losses.

At the forefront of the GOP opposition to her appointment are Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, white lawmakers from states with sizeable Indian populations. Lummis blasted Haaland’s “extreme views” while Daines and Barrasso called them “radical” – and Daines suggested that he try to block her nomination altogether.

The three have led their opposition to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, projects she would have little control over if she became Home Secretary. (Biden has already blocked the Keystone XL pipeline.) And they have opposed early action by Biden to pause new leases for oil and gas wells in states and waters that account for about 20 percent of US production.

But several Native Americans told POLITICO that the harsh criticism of Haaland by the Senators, before it had a chance to address their concerns, reminded them of the stereotyping and rejection tribes have long experienced in dealing with the U.S. government.

Montana Democratic MP Tyson Running Wolf, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, described the Republican opposition as a “political ploy” known to Native American Americans who have entered politics where there is a “preconceived notion of others that You are 25 to 30 percent dumber. “

“It’s wrong that they didn’t give her a chance,” said Running Wolf. “Let her bring some of the native Native American values ​​she grew up with and established from home and bring them and surprise people. And then let their work be evaluated.”

Both Morigeau and Running Wolf signed a letter from the Montana American Indian Caucus urging Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) To reconsider their opposition to Haaland’s nomination.

Several tribal members said young people in their communities view Haaland and his colleague Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Who made history as the first Native American women elected to Congress in 2018, as heroes who helped indigenous groups get a seat in the table in government decisions.

And they said it was impossible to separate the reflexive GOP opposition from the actions of the federal government over many generations that marginalized and isolated tribal communities.

Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota who took part in demonstrations against the Keystone XL pipeline, said Daines, Barrasso and Lummis are primarily against Haaland to target the oil, gas and coal industries in their states defend. But she also said she felt an uglier feeling that underpins her comments.

“I’m not surprised they are attacking them,” said Braune in an email.

In response to tribal criticism, Daines spokeswoman Katie Schoettler said his rejection of her nomination had nothing to do with her indigenous background and came after meeting her in person.

“Senator Daines is proud to have a close relationship with Montana’s tribes and will continue to work on issues that are important to the Indian country,” she said in an email. “This is about the radical views of Congressmen who are completely out of touch with Montana and the nation. The Congresswoman is one of the ten most liberal members of Congress. Their job-killing, energy-saving attitudes threaten jobs in Montana, public access to public properties, outdoor recreation, and our energy independence. “

An adviser to Lummis said, “Senator Lummis is against Rep. Haaland for one reason and only one reason: her radical statements and positions on land and energy issues,” while Barrasso’s office did not respond to the request for comment.

Another Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, said in a statement that Haaland would have a hard time getting his support. Other GOP lawmakers on the committee declined to comment on Haaland’s nomination.

“We are concerned about Rep. Haaland’s record on energy development,” said Hoeven. “This includes opposition to key energy infrastructures like pipelines and their support for measures like the Green New Deal, which increases prices for consumers while increasing our dependence on foreign energy sources. We plan to raise these concerns with her during her confirmation hearing, and ultimately we need her strong commitment to ensure that taxpayers benefit from our abundant energy reserves in our states. “

After a week-long delay in planning the Haaland hearing, the committee set a date for February 23 to consider their selection. Hundreds of groups, including tribal officials and environmental justice advocates, have called on the Senate leaders to “quickly confirm” Haaland in a letter.

Not all Republicans have voted against Haaland’s nomination. Rep. Don Young of Alaska and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, loc State with a significant indigenous population, voted in favor of it in comments for a November article in POLITICO magazine.

But senators, not members of the House of Representatives, have the power to slow down their nominations. And Native American groups have said the Senator’s grave complaints against Halaand, a current House member and daughter of a Navy veteran, sound to their ears like the kind of prejudice they have experienced in American politics for decades.

Other critics said Senate Republicans scapegoated Haaland in a proxy battle against Biden’s early executive ordinances by revoking a necessary permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and giving priority to clean energy projects. Haaland, the former vice chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, had supported bills that the state would have used to expand power transmission networks that could connect wind and solar parks to broader markets.

Barrasso, Daines and Lummis received a total of $ 1.8 million in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry in the last election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign funding.

Julia Bernal, director of the Pueblo Action Alliance and a member of Sandia Pueblo in, could spark Republicans’ fear when she sees a candidate to lead Interior with a different background from the agency’s previous heads and with oil priorities – and gas industry opposes New Mexico. There were Hispanic men and white women serving as secretaries, but Haaland is a groundbreaking choice as a Native American woman.

Haaland “will change the worldview about how we will treat water, land and natural resources in the future,” said Bernal. “Change worries some people. It’s a paradigm shift. The way we have misused resources and poorly managed land has created a climate crisis. If it turns out who has that power, if it threatens the interests of oil and gas, it definitely shows what is wrong with things. “

Haaland proponents say the senators’ focus on their past support for renewable energy and criticism of oil and gas projects ignores what their Home Office leadership would mean to a country that has been official government policy for much of its history who killed and exiled Native Americans.

“The senators are probably listening too much to their benefactors and are probably scared of Deb Haaland,” Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), The House’s natural resources chairman, told POLITICO. “Interior was set up in many ways to solve the Indian problem – either through land grabbing, through almost complete elimination of the people themselves, through culture, or through forced assimilation. [It’s] Complete the circle and you’ll have an indigenous person run the department. I think as a country we should see this moment as a redeeming moment. “

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