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President-elect Joe Biden is vetting US Rep. Deb Haaland for interior secretary

Robert Nott
Santa Fe New Mexican
The transition team for President-elect Joe Biden is vetting U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., for secretary of the Interior Department. Here, Haaland is pictured in a Nov. 3, 2020, AP file photo.

SANTA FE - The transition team for President-elect Joe Biden is vetting U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., for secretary of the Interior Department, according to a post from The Hill.

Haaland, who represents the 1st Congressional District in the Albuquerque area, was easily reelected to the House this month. If picked to head the department, Haaland would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary.

However, many Washington insiders believe two other New Mexicans — Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich — also may be under consideration. Udall, who is retiring from the Senate, has signaled his interest in the position and has long been an advocate for public lands and the environment. His father, Stewart Udall, headed the Interior Department under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

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The Interior Department oversees concerns crucial to the West and the nation, including grazing, parks and recreation, and oil and gas extraction on federal land. The agency also oversees coastal drilling, among other environmental concerns.

In her first term in Congress, Haaland has served on the Armed Services Committee and is vice chairwoman of the Natural Resources Committee. She also is a member of Biden's Climate Engagement Advisory Council.

Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, won the open 1st District seat vacated by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2018.

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In recent remarks posted on her website, Haaland talked about the lack of Native Americans in key policymaking roles.

"For more than 200 years, decisions about federal policy have been made without Native Americans sitting at the table to advocate for our own interests," she said. "Although I am honored to take a seat as one of the first Indigenous women in Congress, the process of healing the intergenerational damage caused by corrosive government actions against Native Americans through the various eras of U.S. government policy is a collective effort."