Nancy Pelosi vouches for Deb Haaland as potential Biden pick to lead Interior Department


House Democratic leaders sent a clear message Wednesday: don’t blame us if President-elect Joseph R. Biden passes over Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico for a Cabinet post.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Ms. Haaland “one of the best members of Congress I have served with.”

“Congresswoman Haaland knows the territory, and if she is the president-elect’s choice for Interior Secretary, then he will have made an excellent choice,” said Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer told reporters that Ms. Haaland would make an excellent pick and that he hasn’t tried to discourage Mr. Biden from tapping House members for the incoming administration.

Mr. Biden has said the narrow margins in the House and Senate are factoring into his personnel choices.

He’s already named Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio as his pick to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development and has named Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana as a senior advisor and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Both Mr. Hoyer and House Majority Whip James Clyburn expressed concerns last week about losing a third member, at least temporarily, as House Democrats head into the new Congress with a diminished majority.

Ms. Haaland, first elected in 2018, would be the first Native American to head the Interior Department if Mr. Biden picks her and she wins Senate confirmation.

She has emerged as a favorite of liberal activist groups such as Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement.

The Interior Department oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which works closely with tribal leaders.

Others who have been named as possible interior secretary picks are retiring Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Michael O’Connor, a former deputy secretary of the Interior during the Obama administration.

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