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politico – ‘She has become an easy target’: GOP opposition to Haaland upsets Native Americans

Laguna Pueblo member Haaland has been a harsh critic of fossil fuel development, a position that made his appointment one of Biden’s most controversial choices. And she could also face some tough questions from the Democratic Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Joe Manchin, who is the most fossil-free Democrat and whose opposition may have scuttled another Biden candidate, Neera Tanden.

Haaland has been a rising star among progressives since being elected to Congress in 2018. She grew up in poverty and her official revelations show that she is still paying off the University of New Mexico law degree loans she obtained in 2006. She worked on the campaign for former President Barack. Obama in the state in 2012 and then chaired the state Democratic Party. , where she was credited with fixing her finances and rebuilding herself after electoral losses.

Leading the GOP opposition to his appointment are the senses. Steve Daines of Montana and John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, white lawmakers from states with significant Native American populations. Lummis criticized Haaland’s “extreme views”, while Daines and Barrasso called her “radical” – and Daines suggested he would try to block his nomination altogether.

The three cited her opposition to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, projects she would have little influence over if she became Home Secretary. (Biden has previously blocked the Keystone XL pipeline.) And they have spoken out against early executive action by Biden that suspended new leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters, which contribute about 20% of American production.

But several Native Americans told POLITICO that senators’ scathing criticism of Haaland, before she had a chance to address their concerns, reminded them of the stereotypes and contempt that tribes have long experienced. in their dealings with the US government.

Montana Democratic Representative Tyson Running Wolf, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, called the Republican opposition a “political ploy” familiar to Native Americans who have entered politics, where there is a “misconception on the part of others that you are 25 to 30%. more silly.

“It’s not true that they didn’t give him the chance,” Running Wolf said. “Let her bring some of those local Native American values ​​that she grew up with and established with from her home, and bring them in and surprise people. And then let his work be evaluated.

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

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

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

Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe in South Dakota who has witnessed protests against the Keystone XL pipeline, said she believed Daines, Barrasso and Lummis were primarily opposed to Haaland in an attempt to defend the oil, gas and coal industries in their states. . But she also said she felt an uglier feeling underlying their comments.

“It doesn’t surprise me that they attack him,” Braune said in an email.

Responding to criticism from the tribes, Daines spokesperson Katie Schoettler said her opposition to her appointment had nothing to do with her Indigenous background and came after meeting her one-on-one.

“Senator Daines is proud to have a strong relationship with the tribes of Montana and will continue to work on issues of importance to Indian Country,” she said in an email. “These are the radical views of the congresswoman that are completely out of touch with Montana and the nation. The congresswoman is ranked among the ten most liberal members of Congress. His anti-energy and job-destroying views threaten Montana’s jobs, public access to public lands, outdoor recreation, and our energy independence.

An aide to Lummis said: “Senator Lummis opposes Representative Haaland for one reason and one reason only: her radical statements and positions on land and energy issues,” while Barrasso’s office did not responded to request for comments.

Another Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, said in a statement that Haaland would also struggle to gain his support. Other GOP lawmakers on the committee declined to comment on Haaland’s appointment.

“We are concerned about Representative Haaland’s track record in energy development,” Hoeven said. “This includes opposing important energy infrastructure like pipelines, as well as supporting policies like the Green New Deal, which raise prices for consumers while increasing our dependence on foreign energy sources. We plan to bring these concerns to him at his confirmation hearing, and ultimately we need his firm commitment to ensuring that taxpayers can benefit from our abundant energy reserves on our federal lands.

After a week of delay in scheduling Haaland’s hearing, the committee set a February 23 date to consider his selection. Hundreds of groups, including tribal representatives and environmental justice advocates, have urged Senate leaders for “quick confirmation” from Haaland in a letter.

Not all Republicans opposed Haaland’s appointment. Representative Don Young from Alaska and Tom Cole from Oklahoma, a A state with a large indigenous population, expressed support for it in comments to a POLITICO magazine article in November.

But senators, not deputies, have the power to slow down his appointment. And Native American groups have said the vehemence of the senator’s complaints against Halaand, a current House member and daughter of a Navy veteran, rings in their ears like the type of prejudice they have suffered for decades in politics. American.

Other critics said Senate Republicans were making Haaland a scapegoat in a proxy fight against Biden’s first executive orders revoking a necessary permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and prioritizing projects for clean energy. Haaland, the former deputy chairman of the House natural resources committee, had backed bills that would have used federal land to expand power transmission grids that could link wind and solar farms to larger 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.

Seeing a candidate for the Home Office who has a different experience than the former heads of the agency and opposes the priorities of the oil and gas industry can trigger angst among Republicans, said Julia Bernal, director of the Pueblo Action Alliance and member of Sandia Pueblo in New Mexico. There have been Hispanic men and white women who served as secretaries, but Haaland is a revolutionary choice as a Native American woman.

Haaland “will change a world view of how we will manage water, land and natural resources in the future,” said Bernal. “The change is baffling for some people. It is a paradigm shift. The way we abuse resources and mismanage land has resulted in a climate crisis. Seeing a change in who holds that power, if it threatens the interests of oil and gas, it definitely reveals what’s wrong with things.

Haaland supporters say senators’ attention to his past support for renewables and critics of oil and gas projects ignores what his Home Office leadership would mean for a country that, for much of its history, has makes the killing and exile of Native Americans official government policy.

“Senators are probably listening too much to their benefactors and they are probably afraid of Deb Haaland,” Natural Resources Chamber president Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) Told POLITICO. “The interior in many ways was put in place to deal with the Indian problem – either through the taking of land or through the virtual elimination of the people themselves, cultivation or forced assimilation. [It’s] come full circle and you’re going to have a native to lead the ministry. I think as a country we should see this moment as a moment of redemption. “

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