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'Glad That's Settled': Manchin Backs Haaland for Interior

The West Virginia Democrat's announcement signals a key hurdle for her confirmation as secretary is cleared.

Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, speaks during a confirmation hearing for Representative Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico and secretary of the interior nominee, in Washington, D.C. on February 24, 2021.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, speaks during a confirmation hearing for Rep. Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico and secretary of the interior nominee, in Washington, D.C. on February 24, 2021. On Wednesday, Manchin announced he would vote to confirm Haaland. (Photo: Sarah Silbiger AFP via Getty Images)

Conservative Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin announced Wednesday that he will vote to confirm for President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Interior Department, Rep. Deb Haaland.

The West Virginia senator, who'd been under sustained pressure from progressives to back Haaland (D-N.M), said in a statement that "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."

Manchin's statement pointed to Haaland having "reiterated the position of the Biden administration that our country will continue to use fossil fuels for years to come, even as we transition to a cleaner energy future, through innovation not elimination."

"I look forward to working with her to protect our public lands and ensure the responsible use of all our natural resources in a bipartisan manner," said Manchin.

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Haaland supports the Green New Deal and opposes fossil fuel drilling on public lands. A member of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, Haaland would be the first-ever Native American cabinet secretary if confirmed for Interior secretary. 

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which Manchin chairs, held the second day of Haaland's confirmation hearing on Wednesday. Up to this point, Manchin's vote on Haaland was still unclear, making her confirmation uncertain in light of the chamber's narrow Democratic majority.

Manchin's statement appears to refer to Haaland's remarks Tuesday, when she told lawmakers: "There's no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come. I know how important oil and gas revenues are to fund critical services."

"But," she added, "we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating, and our climate challenge must be addressed."

Hundreds of advocacy groups demanded Haaland's swift confirmation with a letter this month calling her the "right person to lead the charge against the existential threats of our time—tackling the climate, biodiversity, extinction, and Covid-19 crises, and racial justice inequities on our federal public lands and waters."

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