March 15, 2021

Nomination of Debra Anne Haaland

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Madam President, I am here to say a few words on behalf of Deb Haaland to be Secretary of the Interior.

There is something wonderfully beautiful and symmetrical about her appointment to this position because of the Department of the Interior’s role supervising America’s public lands. Well, of course, before America’s public lands were America’s public lands, they were Native American lands, and Deb Haaland will be the first Native American to serve in any President’s Cabinet and the first to serve as the Secretary of this Department. So that is kind of a wonderful harmony with history, and I hope we appreciate that here.

The second thing that I want to say is that it is, to me, deeply ironic how much of the opposition to her as Secretary has come on the theory that she won’t be fair to fossil fuels. We have lived through 4 years of a Trump administration with Secretaries of the Interior who were out-and-out operatives of fossil fuel. The fossil fuel hand in the Secretary’s glove was obvious.

The idea that anything other than fossil fuel was treated fairly in the Trump administration is a preposterous notion. Basically, anything that wasn’t nailed down, they gave to the fossil fuel industry with no consideration for any of the competitors, and they did it so badly and so shabbily and so sloppily because they were so greedy that a lot of the stuff they did got thrown out by courts because they didn’t even bother to do their homework.

So, please, let’s not talk about fairness after the last 4 years. Our friends on the other side lost their standing to talk about fairness after what they did for fossil fuel in the last 4 years, including outright lies about climate change.

My good friend from Texas talks about hurricanes. He has real hurricanes coming because of climate change. Yet where is the climate plan from the other side? None, because the fossil fuel industry won’t let them.

Let me last say as I conclude, I come from the Ocean State. Representative Haaland comes from one of those interior square States. Her Agency is called the Department of the Interior. When you look at things like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, floods of money go to inside America, interior America, upland and inland America, and the coasts always get overlooked. I have made it very clear to Ms. Haaland that has to stop. With climate change coming, with fisheries moving about, with sea levels rising, with oceans warming, with actual seas acidifying in front of our eyes, to overlook the coast can happen no more. I trusted her when she said she would. I will take her at her word, but I also intend to work very hard to make sure that I can support her in keeping her word that oceans and coasts will matter.