The US Senate confirmed Representative Deb Haaland as secretary of the interior, making her the first Native American to lead a cabinet agency and giving her a central role in President Joe Biden’s sweeping plans to fight climate change.
A divided US Senate confirmed the New Mexico Democrat in a narrow vote on Monday (local time) after she clinched support from Republicans including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Maine Senator Susan Collins.
Ms Haaland’s ascension to the cabinet is the culmination of weeks of active campaigning by Native American tribes and environmental groups in support of her historic appointment.
She faced resistance from western Republican lawmakers over her views on the oil industry.
Her contentious two-day hearing last month in the Senate energy and natural resources committee became a referendum on fossil fuels extraction as Republican senators grilled her about her involvement in pipeline protests, her support of the Green New Deal climate resolution, and the Biden administration’s pause on new federal drilling leases.
Ms Haaland will oversee polices guiding use of more than 200 million hectares of federal and tribal land, one-fifth of the nation’s surface.
A member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, Ms Haaland will also oversee the US government’s relationship with more than 570 federally recognised tribal nations.
Ms Haaland became one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in 2018.