Republican Sen. Steve Daines, the extremist junior senator from Montana who shills for the oil and gas industry, met with Rep. Deb Haaland last week and came away saying he will seek to block her nomination as secretary of the Department of Interior. Daines can slow down the process by placing a hold on her nomination, and he has support from Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso (as well as 18 members of the House). But since the Congresswoman only needs a simple majority in the Senate, she is likely to be confirmed as the first American Indian and third woman to hold the Interior post. Both Daines and Barrasso sit on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
The department governs about 75% of public lands under federal jurisdiction, including the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Services, the Bureau of Land Management, and 544 national wildlife refuges. Since 1849, it has also handled many Indigenous matters, including governing trust lands and overseeing the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education. Numerous tribes and individual Natives have strongly endorsed Haaland, who is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo.
In the wake of his meeting with Haaland, Daines wrote at his website on Friday, “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, including her support for the Green New Deal and President Biden's oil and gas moratorium, as well as her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. I am also concerned by the responses I received about the role of the Department and lack of appreciation for issues that impact Montana such as wildlife management and hunting and sportsman access. I'm not convinced the Congresswoman can divorce her radical views and represent what's best for Montana and all stakeholders in the West. Unless my concerns are addressed, I will block her confirmation.”
Wilmot Collins, the mayor of Helena, Montana, tweeted in response:
Shameful indeed. But not alone.
Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told E&E News that Haaland’s “radical views are squarely at odds with the responsible management of our nation’s energy resources.”
“Her vocal opposition to oil and gas production on federal lands will only encourage President Biden along the illegal and reckless path that he has begun,” he said. “Representative Haaland must demonstrate that she will follow the law, protect the multiple uses of our public lands, and reject policies that will force energy workers into the unemployment line. I won’t support her nomination otherwise.”
Not exactly a surprise since, as Chris D’Angelo reports, the oil and gas industry has been a top-five contributor to both men, giving $1.16 million to each, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Under Donald Trump in 2017, neither Daines nor Barasso had any problem whatsoever backing extremist climate science-denier Ryan Zinke for secretary of interior, nor of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-hating Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator, both of whom left office under a cloud of ethical concerns with 18 investigations into Zinke’s behavior in two years as secretary. Both senators also supported the nomination of Indian-hating William Pendley last year to head the Bureau of Land Management. He had been the acting head since July 2019.
Matthew Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University and a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, said in August before the nomination was withdrawn that Pendley’s writings were “just a crazy, crazy racist perception of what Indian people are and what tribes are.” Also in August, Alleen Brown at The Intercept scrutinized the long history of Pendley expressing “overt racism” in his views about Native peoples.
Pendley also had plenty of negative things to say about environmental advocates. That made him perfect to head the anti-environmentalist, anti-Indigenous Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) for several years. MSLF was noted for its “free market” extremism. In 1977, its first president was James Watt, who would four years later under President Ronald Reagan become secretary of interior, where he made a mess of things and left under a cloud, later being charged with numerous felony counts of influence peddling. He got off with a tsk-tsk, a fine, and probation.
In a Monday letter to Daines, executive director of the Montana Conservation Voters Whitney Tawney wrote:
Your words about Rep. Haaland’s nomination, Senator Daines, ring hollow. They may be politically expedient for you, but they do not resonate with the best interests of the people ofMontana. [...]
First, we’d like to note your months of silence on one of the last people to be nominated for a Senate confirmed position at the Interior Department, William Perry Pendley. Despite countless unanswered complaints from your constituents during the embattled tenure of illegal Acting BLM Director William Perry Pendley, you remained silent. Mr. Pendley’s radical, anti-Western policies included advocating for the selloff of our public lands but you refused to demand a confirmation vote for Mr. Pendley, allowing him to serve in what a federal judge called an “unlawful,” unconstitutional leadership position. Montanans wish you had expressed concern over Acting Director Pendley’s radicalism like you are now with the nation’s first indigenous woman ever to be nominated to a cabinet position.
There’s little chance Haaland’s nomination will be stopped by these guys and their compatriots. But, sadly, there’s also little chance voters will oust either of them from their seats in the Senate.