WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered remarks on the Senate Floor supporting President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Representative Deb Haaland (D-N.M.).
Senator Heinrich’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
I rise today in support of my colleague in the New Mexico Congressional Delegation, my Representative in the House of Representatives, and President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Interior, Congresswoman Deb Haaland.
Congresswoman Haaland is member the Pueblo of Laguna.
And she is what we like to call a 35th-generation New Mexican.
As many have noted, she will make history as the first-ever Native American Cabinet secretary, something that frankly should have happened a long, long time ago.
Deb also has lived experience—as a single mother, as a small business owner, and as a tribal administrator—that will serve her well and bring real representation to President Biden’s Cabinet.
She grew up in a military family: her father was a decorated Marine combat veteran, and her mother is a Navy veteran.
She grew up like many kids with parents in the military, moving frequently and attending 13 different public schools over the course of her childhood.
Before being elected to Congress, she owned her own business, was the chair of the board of a tribally-owned business, and also served as Tribal Administrator for the Pueblo of San Felipe.
Thanks to all of that experience, Congresswoman Haaland knows firsthand how the decisions that we make here in Washington—and particularly in the Interior Department—affect communities across the country, especially in Tribal communities and in rural Western states.
As Representative of the 1st District of New Mexico, Congresswoman Haaland has served as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.
As a committee leader, she routinely demonstrated her commitment to working across party lines—as evidenced by her introduction in our Committee by Congressman Don Young, a Republican from Alaska.
Of all the members of Congress newly elected in 2018, she introduced the most bills with bipartisan cosponsors.
She has always shown the ability to bring people together—with an open door and with an open mind—to listen and consult with a diverse range of stakeholders and build real consensus.
I am confident that she is the leader we need at Interior to take on the important work of restoring our landscapes, opening up new outdoor recreation opportunities for everyone, and putting our public lands to work in confronting the climate crisis.
Americans want the Department of Interior to create more equitable access to our public lands, stand for environmental justice, find real solutions for the climate crisis, protect wildlife and clean water, and support rural economic development.
Many of us here in the Senate demonstrated just last year when we passed the historic and bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act that making conservation and outdoor recreation a key part of our national economic recovery is a goal that has the ability to unite us all—Republicans and Democrats.
Implementation of that new law will allow us to put many Americans back to work repairing campgrounds, repairing our trail systems, and building new visitor centers.
Congresswoman Haaland is eager to lead that work.
She is also uniquely qualified to help us restore the Department of Interior’s nation-to-nation relationship to Tribal Nations and to help Indian Country recover and rebuild from COVID-19.
The Interior Department will play a leading role in implementing President Biden’s American Rescue Plan in Indian Country.
That historic rescue package—which the Senate just passed over the weekend—includes more than $31 billion in emergency support for Indian Country.
Let me put that into perspective.
That represents the single greatest investment in Indian Country in American history.
And this emergency support is desperately needed in Tribal communities.
Over the past year, American Indians and Alaska Natives infected by COVID-19 have been hospitalized at four-times the rate higher than White Americans and have died from the disease at nearly twice the rate.
That’s not just some statistic.
I know this firsthand because of the people I know and have lost in Indian Country.
On top of these unacceptable public health outcomes, Tribal communities have also been disproportionately impacted by the educational and economic devastation of the past year.
The lack of broadband, for example.
These disparities reflect the persistent inequities that are the direct result of decades of chronic underinvestment by Congress in Indian Country.
That’s why American Rescue Plan includes $20 billion in emergency funds for Tribal governments that have taken on enormous and unprecedented costs to protect the health and safety of their members.
It also includes billions of dollars of investments in Indian Country to expand access to health care, education, transportation, housing, and even essentials that many of us take for granted.
Things like broadband internet, electricity, and clean water.
The Senate urgently needs to take up Congresswoman Haaland’s nomination to lead the Department of Interior so Tribes will finally have the partner they need to effectively implement the American Rescue Plan and help them steer their communities out of this perilous moment.
Finally, it’s unfortunate, frankly, that this needs to be said.
But I do need to take a moment to address characterizations of Congresswoman Haaland that were raised by some of my colleagues in the Energy and Natural Resources that were neither accurate nor frankly appropriate to the type of debate we typically have in that committee.
I was disappointed by the tenor of the debate in our Committee as some of my colleagues described Congresswoman Haaland as a “radical” or as “extreme” for holding policy views that fall well within the mainstream and fairly represent many of her constituents—I would say the vast majority of her constituents.
As a Westerner, Congresswoman Haaland well understands that confronting the climate crisis—not denying it—and transforming our economy will not come without costs.
We need to be honest about that.
That is especially true for fossil fuel workers—including many of our fellow New Mexicans—who have long powered our economy and deserve our respect and support.
We need to be thorough on the details and thoughtful in preparing our traditional energy communities for a transition to a clean energy future that the market has already told us is coming—is already here.
We also need to be honest with them.
I am absolutely certain that Congresswoman Haaland will be a true partner to Western states like New Mexico—and Alaska, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming—as we navigate this transition.
As we confront the climate crisis that is already an existential threat to our land and water resources in the West—and the communities that depend on those resources—we must diversify our economy, invest in our communities, and remain a global leader in producing and exporting energy.
Despite the objections that have been raised against her nomination, and the holds that have unfairly held up her confirmation, I am confident in Congresswoman Haaland’s commitment to work with every single one of us on these pressing challenges.
I am eager for the Senate to finally take up Congresswoman Haaland’s confirmation so she can get to work protecting our natural heritage for future generations.