The Washington Post this afternoon (December 17, 2020) reports that New Mexico congresswoman Deb Haaland has been tapped as President-elect Joe Biden’s interior secretary.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that if confirmed, Haaland would make history as the nation’s first-ever Native American cabinet secretary and would lead an influential federal agency that oversees more than 500 million acres of public lands and tribal issues.
Haaland, who is a Laguna Pueblo member and former San Felipe Pueblo tribal administrator, had been touted as a potential Cabinet pick by many fellow House members and Native American groups.
After previous about House Democrats’ being concerned a Haaland appointment could eat into their already-thin majority, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday that Haaland would be an “excellent choice” by the Biden transition team.
It also marks a rapid ascent in national politics for Haaland, who was elected to represent the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District in 2018 after previously serving as the chairwoman of New Mexico’s Democratic Party.
It could also set off a wild scramble to fill her Democratic-leaning congressional seat, as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham would have to call a special election to fill the seat within 91 days of it being vacated, according to state law.
In addition to being the first Native American appointed to a Cabinet post, Haaland also would become just the third woman to helm the Interior Department, following Gale Norton and Sally Jewell.
The U.S. Interior Department oversees the management of public land nationwide, and the agency has been frequently helmed by Westerners in recent decades.
Two New Mexicans have led the agency, most recently Manuel Lujan Jr., who was appointed by former President George H.W. Bush and served from 1989 to 1993.