Senate Energy Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on Wednesday he supported the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to lead the Interior Department, delivering a crucial boost for the New Mexico lawmaker to be the the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary.
"While we do not agree on every issue, she reaffirmed her strong commitment to bipartisanship, addressing the diverse needs of our country and maintaining our nation's energy independence," he said in a statement. "I believe Deb Haaland will be a Secretary of the Interior for every American and will vote to confirm her."
In particular, he cited praise from Rep. Don Young, a conservative Republican from Alaska, who introduced Haaland at the hearing and vouched for her bipartisan outreach. And Manchin also cited Haaland's comments during her two days of hearings where she reassured lawmakers that fossil fuels would remain a part of the domestic energy mix and vowed to help clean up abandoned mines.
Key context: Haaland avoided major mistakes during her hearing, even as GOP senators criticized her prior comments opposing fracking, fossil fuels and pipeline projects.
Under questioning from Manchin, Haaland, one of the most progressive members of Congress, said she supported U.S. energy independence and acknowledged the country would "absolutely rely on the fossil energy" for the foreseeable future.
Waiting for the votes: Manchin, the most pro-fossil fuels Democrat in the Senate, is seen as a crucial vote for Haaland's nomination given the emerging opposition from Republicans. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) came out against Haaland's selection in a blistering statement, calling her "a hardline ideologue with radical views out of touch with Montana and the West."
Several other moderate senators, notably Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), have yet to state their position on Haaland's nomination.