The U.S. Senate confirmed Representative Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American to lead a cabinet agency and giving her a central role in President Joe Biden’s sweeping plans to fight climate change.

By Valerie Volcovici

A divided U.S. Senate confirmed the New Mexico Democrat in a narrow vote after she clinched support from Republicans including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Maine Senator Susan Collins.

FILE PHOTO: Rep. Deb Haaland, D-NM, looks on during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior Secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S. February 23, 2021. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS

Haaland’s ascension to the cabinet is the culmination of weeks of active campaigning by Native American tribes and environmental groups in support of her historic appointment.

She faced resistance from western Republican lawmakers over her views on the oil industry.

Her contentious two-day hearing last month in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee became a referendum on fossil fuels extraction as Republican senators grilled her about her involvement in pipeline protests, her support of the Green New Deal climate resolution, and the Biden administration’s pause on new federal drilling leases.

Haaland will oversee polices guiding use of 500 million acres of federal and tribal land, a fifth of the nation’s surface.

A member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, Haaland would also oversee the U.S. government’s relationship with some 574 federally recognized tribal nations.

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