Biden's Interior secretary pick Haaland secures Republican support

FILE PHOTO: Rep. Deb Haaland, D-NM, speaks during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior Secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S. February 23, 2021. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the U.S. Interior Department, U.S. Representative Deb Haaland, secured backing from a moderate Republican senator on Wednesday, further paving her way to confirmation.

The support from Senator Susan Collins of Maine comes one week after West Virginia’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he would vote to confirm Haaland, who is poised to become the nation’s first Native American in a presidential Cabinet post.

Their backing is key in the 50-50 split U.S. Senate, in which Biden needs every Democrat on board to push his nominees through, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting any tie-breaking vote. Collins’ support allows extra breathing room should another Democrat oppose the nomination.

Manchin and Collins earlier rejected Biden’s proposed budget director, Neera Tanden, whose nomination was yanked on Tuesday.

The two senators acknowledged the differ with Haaland on some issues, but praised her vow to work with both political parties.

Collins, in her statement on Wednesday, also cited “Haaland’s willingness to support issues important to the State of Maine, such as Acadia National Park, as well as her deep knowledge of tribal issues.”

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to vote on Haaland’s nomination on Thursday. If approved, it would move to the full Senate for a vote.

Tensions were raised at her confirmation hearing last week as Republicans targeted her past opposition to fossil fuel projects and Biden’s agenda to combat climate change.

The Interior Department oversees the nation’s vast public lands and waters, including 500 million acres of federal and tribal lands as well as offshore federal waters.

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