The Senate voted 51-40 on Monday to confirm Deb Haaland as the first Native American to serve as Interior secretary, overseeing Native American affairs and federal lands. File Pool photo by Jim Watson/UPI | License Photo
March 15 (UPI) -- The Senate on Monday confirmed Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., to serve as secretary of the Interior Department, making her the first Native American to serve in a presidential Cabinet.
Following the 51-40 vote Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, will helm the department that oversees 574 federally recognized Native American and Alaskan Native communities as well as 480 million acres of federal land including 400 national parks, 100 national monuments and 500 national wildlife refuges.
The agency, which has never been led by a Native American, includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service. It also manages and administers 55 million acres of estates held in trust by the United States for hundreds of tribes.
"Rep. Haaland's confirmation represents a gigantic step forward in creating a government that represents the full richness and diversity of this country because Native Americans were, for far too long, neglected at the cabinet level and in so many other places," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said before the vote.
Four Republicans crossed the aisle to join Democrats in supporting Haaland's confirmation, although many expressed concerns about her support for the New Green Deal and her opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, voiced her support for Haaland before the vote despite declaring she had concerns about how Haaland's positions could affect the state's oil industry, while Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Haaland's deep knowledge of Native American Affairs gained her trust.
During her confirmation hearing, Haaland said she would focus on helping Biden's climate plan which includes allowing some mining, oil and gas drilling while looking to limit emissions in addition to restoring lands damaged by excavation.
She also expressed a personal goal to solve the issue of high rates of missing and murdered women in Indian Country.