Daines threatens to hold up Haaland confirmation

Rep. Deb Haaland’s confirmation hearing has yet to even be scheduled, but already at least one Senate Republican is pledging to block her nomination to serve as secretary of the Interior.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) announced Friday he would take steps to prevent Haaland, a New Mexico Democrat, from leading the agency with jurisdiction over activities on public lands — one direct result of the backlash against President Biden’s executive orders to halt construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and pause new federal oil and gas leasing.

“After our conversation, I’m deeply concerned with the Congresswoman’s support on several radical issues that will hurt Montana, our way of life, our jobs and rural America,” Daines said in a statement, which he released after completing his courtesy meeting with Haaland.

Daines specifically cited Haaland’s advocacy on behalf of the Green New Deal as disqualifying, along with her support for Biden’s oil and Keystone orders.

“I’m not convinced the Congresswoman can divorce her radical views and represent what’s best for Montana and all stakeholders from the West,” he continued. “Unless my concerns are addressed, I will block her confirmation.”

Daines’ threats don’t directly hurt Haaland’s ability to eventually be confirmed, but they do risk slowing down the process if the senator decides to force procedural floor votes at every available juncture.

And, in emerging as the first Senate Republican to publicly oppose Haaland and commit to a path for complicating her confirmation, Daines could empower colleagues with similar concerns to take similar stances and create some bad optics for the nominee who was never among the most controversial of Biden’s Cabinet picks.

He’ll also have a platform to make his opposition known as a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which will handle Haaland’s confirmation hearing.

This committee is already made up of additional GOP critics of the new administration’s energy policies who will likely be inclined to indict Haaland because of them. They include Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the ranking member, and Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), all of whom hail from states where local economies depend on oil and gas development.

Haaland would not, however, be the first Cabinet nominee to be lumped in with Biden’s environmental agenda despite not currently serving in the administration that made the decisions.

Energy secretary nominee Jennifer Granholm and the nominee for EPA administrator, Michael Regan, have also been questioned sharply on how they viewed these new policies and in what ways they would navigate the policies once confirmed.

The Interior Department press office had no comment on Daines’ plans to hold up Haaland’s nomination.