Steve Daines Election Night

Sen. Steve Daines accepts his win in the U.S. Senate race during an election night watch party Nov. 3 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bozeman.

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Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines joined Wyoming Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis on Tuesday in placing a hold on the confirmation of Rep. Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior.

“I will be forcing debate on Rep. Haaland’s nomination to Interior,” Daines said in a statement on Tuesday morning. “Her record is clear: she opposes pipelines and fossil fuels, ignores science when it comes to wildlife management and wants to ban trapping on public lands. Her views will hurt the Montana way of life and kill Montana jobs.”

Daines’ and Lummis’ move could delay Haaland’s final confirmation vote, but it is unlikely their effort will prevent the New Mexico Democrat from being confirmed as she has received support from every member of her party and from a couple Republicans.

Jeremy Johnson, an associate professor of political science at Carroll College, said over the last few decades, it has become more difficult to derail the confirmation process because the Senate has changed its procedures related to holds on nominees, reducing the number of votes required to override a hold on a nomination from a supermajority to a simple majority. The Senate is split with Republicans and Democrats each holding 50 seats.

“This move is less effective today because it can be overcome more easily than it once could, but it is still a nuisance and something that senators may use to emphasize their opposition,” Johnson said.

Several Montana county commissioners as well as industry and recreation groups have joined Daines in objecting to Haaland’s confirmation.

Safari Club International on Tuesday sent a letter to senate leaders raising concerns about Haaland’s “refusal to commit to supporting a no-net-loss policy for hunting and fishing access on America’s public lands.”

The Conservative Action Project also raised questions about Haaland’s record on Tuesday.

“At a time where both jobs and the stability of our energy supply are both of paramount importance, it is clear that Rep. Haaland will take the Department of the Interior in a more ideological direction than a measured and thoughtful one,” the group wrote.

However, conservation groups, tribal members and politicians have criticized Daines’ position. Some have said Haaland is being held to an unfair standard as a woman of color. Her opponents have said that is not the case and that they are offended by the accusation.

Montana Conservation Voters blasted Daines’ decision to place a hold on Haaland’s nomination.

“Senator Daines’ attempt to be relevant in the swamp by blocking this qualified nominee and leading the charge against her with false statements and mischaracterizations, effectively seals his legacy as one of the most anti-public lands politicians in Montana’s rich history of putting what’s best of our state ahead of partisan politics,” said Whitney Tawney, the group’s executive director, in a statement.

Climate Power 2020, a joint project formed by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club, said Tuesday that Daines’ placement of a hold on Haaland’s nomination stems from the influence of his donors. OpenSecrets, a website that tracks money in politics, shows Daines has received $1.2 million from the oil and gas industry during his senate career.

“Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can easily override this hold, making it clear that it is nothing more than a political scheme by Daines to protect his Big Oil donors,” said spokesperson Meghan Schneider in a statement.

Daines has long disapproved of Haaland, who Biden nominated as Interior Secretary in December.

He announced Feb. 5 after meeting with her that he would block her confirmation if she didn’t address his concerns, including her support for the Green New Deal and her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

During her two-day confirmation hearing in late February, Daines pressed her on grizzly bear policy and her past statements about fossil fuels.

In the days following the hearing, he tweeted, “Rep. Haaland is a far-left ideologue with a record to prove it. Her confirmation will hurt Montana & the Western way of life as we know it.”

Last week, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to send Haaland’s confirmation to the full Senate on an 11-9 vote, with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski the only Republican to join Democrats in voting “yes.”

Montana’s second U.S. Senator, Democrat Jon Tester, has said he’ll support Haaland’s confirmation.

“Congresswoman Haaland has received strong bipartisan support because of her commitment to protecting public lands, creating good-paying jobs and ensuring the federal government meets its trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal nations,” Tester spokesperson Roy Loewenstein said in an email. “When her nomination is brought to the floor, Senator Tester will vote to confirm her.”

If confirmed, Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, would be the first Native American cabinet secretary.

The Secretary of the Interior manages most federal land and natural resources and leads dozens of agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Haaland’s confirmation is part of a broader debate on Biden’s energy agenda. Daines’ and Lummis’ move comes as tensions are high between some Republicans and the White House over recent executive orders and policies, including the revocation of a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and Biden’s temporary halt on issuing new leases to companies looking to drill for oil and gas on public lands and in public waters.

Democrats have said Biden doesn’t plan to eliminate fossil fuels, and Haaland told senators during her confirmation hearing that even if she wanted to move away from fossil fuels, that decision is ultimately up to the president.

Haaland isn’t the first Biden nominee to face a hold in the Senate. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, placed a hold on the nomination of Gina Raimondo for Secretary of Commerce and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, placed a hold on Alejandro Mayorkas for Secretary of Homeland Security. The Senate ultimately confirmed both.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.

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