WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland's appointment Monday as Interior secretary despite the objections of Utah senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney.
By a 51-40 vote, Haaland becomes the first Native America to lead a cabinet department and the first to lead the federal agency that has wielded influence over the nation’s tribes for nearly two centuries.
Four Republican senators voted to confirm Haaland.
Romney said he discussed with Haaland "several issues of importance to Utah," including federal energy leases.
“We also discussed the ongoing review of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument designations, and I reiterated the delegation's preference for a permanent legislative solution that provides certainty and reflects state, local, and tribal input," said Romney in a statement.
Utah lawmakers have urged President Biden's administration to find a permanent solution for drawing the boundaries of the two national monuments.
Cuts in the size of the parks made by former President Trump paved the way for potential coal mining and oil and gas drilling on lands that used to be off-limits, though activity was limited because of market dynamics. Upon taking office, Biden signed an executive order to review the boundaries of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.
In the end, Romney voted against Haaland's confirmation.
“Based on Rep. Haaland's record and views on land management and energy resources, including her support for radical policies like the Green New Deal, I am not able to support her confirmation to lead the Interior Department," said Romney in a statement.