Biden to nominate first-ever Native American cabinet secretary

If confirmed, Deb Haaland will serve as interior secretary and will oversee tribal lands and national parks.

If confirmed as interior secretary, US Representative Deb Haaland would be the first-ever Native American cabinet secretary [File: J Scott Applewhite/AP]
If confirmed as interior secretary, US Representative Deb Haaland would be the first-ever Native American cabinet secretary [File: J Scott Applewhite/AP]

United States President-elect Joe Biden said Thursday he plans to nominate US Representative Deb Haaland, one of the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress in 2018, to serve as his interior secretary.

The Biden transition team said in a statement late Thursday that Haaland was one of several nominees chosen to lead the incoming administration’s fight against climate change.

“This team will advance the President-elect’s agenda leading the world to confront the climate crisis – creating good-paying jobs, building resilient communities, and making historic investments in environmental justice,” the statement reads.

Haaland, a Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico and a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, would be the first Native American cabinet secretary and the first to oversee the department, whose jurisdiction includes tribal lands.

‘I’ll be fierce’

The Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday that Haaland was the leading candidate for the job, which would give her authority over a department that employs more than 70,000 people across the US.

The interior department also oversees more than 20 percent of the nation’s surface, including tribal lands and national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.

In a tweet late Thursday, Haaland said she was “honored and ready to serve”.

“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” she tweeted.

“Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”

Republican Deb Haaland stands during the 116th Congress and swearing-in ceremony on the floor of the US House of Representatives at the US Capitol on January 3, 2019 [Brendan Smialowski/AFP]
Haaland was one of the first two Native American women ever elected to the US Congress when she won New Mexico’s first congressional district in 2018. The other was Sharice Davids of Kansas.

A lawyer by profession, she campaigned on a platform of tackling climate change and income inequality, as well as providing universal healthcare.

Haaland has told Reuters she would seek to usher in an expansion of renewable energy production on federal land to contribute to the fight against climate change and undo President Donald Trump’s focus on bolstering fossil fuels output.

If nominated, Haaland would step down from her seat in the US House, where Democrats already are facing a slim majority in 2021 after losing seats in the 2020 election.

Biden also nominated Michael Regan, North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If confirmed, Regan would be the first Black man to run the EPA, Reuters reported.

Jim Marston, former head of the Environmental Defense Fund’s state initiatives programme where Regan previously worked, told Reuters that he was not surprised he emerged as a top contender to lead the EPA.

“He could talk with, work with industry. And his own personal history allows him to really relate … to working-class folks who are the workers in plants that need to be regulated,” Marston said.

Biden also on Thursday nominated Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to be his energy secretary and former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to be his climate adviser.

Rounding out his environmental and energy-related picks, Biden on Wednesday announced the nomination of Pete Buttigieg to be his transportation secretary.

Source : Al Jazeera and News agencies

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