Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the upcoming confirmations of Representative Debra Haaland as Secretary of the Interior and Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Yesterday the Senate completed an extremely productive day by confirming three members, three members, of President Biden’s Cabinet. Today we are going to keep up the pace by moving the ball forward on two more of the President’s nominees.
First, the Senate will begin the process of bringing Xavier Becerra’s nomination to serve as HHS Secretary to the floor. This is a critical position as we continue to battle the virus and I’m perplexed that none of my Republican colleagues would vote for him. He’s a capable man. He’s worked hard to make sure that people get healthcare. Some have said: well, he’s not a doctor. Neither was the previous Trump nominee for HHS, who happened to be a pharmaceutical company executive. What would Americans prefer?
Second, the Senate will move forward with another very historic nominee that makes us so proud, Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico to serve as the next Secretary of the Interior. She will be confirmed on Monday.
Rep. Deb Haaland was elected to the Congress in 2018. She was the first Native American woman, along with Rep. Sharice Davids from Kansas, to ever—ever—serve in the People’s House.
If confirmed, Rep. Haaland would not only become the first Native American to lead the Department of the Interior, she would be the first Native American to serve in any Cabinet position in American history. We’ve had a Vice President with Native American roots, but never a cabinet official.
Given the long and troubled relationship between the federal government and tribal nations, the ascension of Rep. Haaland to the top of the Interior Department is a profoundly important moment for America as we advance on the long road—still not fully traveled at all—of equality, or towards equality. For too long, tribal nations have been denied a seat at the table where decisions were made that impacted their lives and their land. Not only will a Secretary Haaland ensure that they get a seat, she will bring her own lived experiences to the table alongside them.
Under President Trump, the Department of Interior became one of the most scandal-ridden agencies in the federal government. It gave oil and mining companies carte blanche to drill in wildlife reserves, rolled back environmental protections, and greatly undermined trust in the federal government in tribal lands.
Rep. Haaland will move the Department in a dramatically different direction. One of her most important responsibilities will be to restore and uphold the federal government’s obligations to sovereign tribal nations. I cannot think of a better candidate to take on this job than Rep. Haaland, and I greatly look forward to confirming her. It will be historic.
Now, in general Madame President, the Senate is making great progress in installing President Biden’s highly qualified nominees. So far, we’ve already confirmed 16 cabinet-level appointments. We are set to increase that number to 18 after Secretaries Haaland and Becerra are approved. Every single one of the President’s nominees has been confirmed with a bipartisan vote here on the Senate floor.
President Biden deserves his team in place, and the Senate is moving quickly to get the job done.