REGIONAL— Minnesota Eighth District Congressman Pete Stauber is facing withering criticism from across Indian Country in response to his campaign to derail the nomination of Deb Haaland as …
REGIONAL— Minnesota Eighth District Congressman Pete Stauber is facing withering criticism from across Indian Country in response to his campaign to derail the nomination of Deb Haaland as President Joe Biden’s Interior Secretary. Haaland, a member of Congress from New Mexico, would be the first Native American to hold a position in a presidential Cabinet. Her nomination as the chief overseer of America’s public lands has been widely seen among tribal officials as a significant reset in terms of the relationship between tribes and the federal government— which is why Stauber’s efforts to derail her nomination have so stunned tribal officials, particularly those in Stauber’s own district.
“We write today to express our profound disappointment,” wrote tribal chairs from five different northern Minnesota bands, including Mille Lacs, Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, Grand Portage and Bois Forte. “This historic nomination is more important to us and all of Indian Country than any other Cabinet nomination in recent history,” stated the tribal chairs in a joint Jan. 14 letter to Stauber, obtained by the Timberjay.
With 574 federally recognized tribes in the U.S., the Minnesota chairs note that it is rare to have virtually unanimous agreement on any issue but agree that supporting the nomination of Rep. Haaland is as close as Indian Country has ever come to having one unified position. “As Ranking Minority Member on the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples, your opposition to the first and only American Indian ever nominated to a Cabinet position is likely to reverberate across Indian Country.”
Minnesota tribal officials say they are most upset over the fact that Stauber never consulted with them prior to circulating a letter to members of Congress expressing his opposition to Haaland’s nomination. “Out of respect for our relationship with you as the sovereign Native Nations in your district, we would have expected outreach from you in advance so we could have discussed this issue,” states the letter.
The anger from tribal officials is over a draft letter, first obtained by NBC News, that Stauber has been circulating among members of Congress in opposition to Haaland’s appointment.
Stauber’s letter notes that Haaland was an early House sponsor of the Green New Deal, which calls for major public investments in clean power production as well as improvements in energy efficiency.
In his letter, Stauber calls Haaland a “direct threat to working men and women and a rejection of responsible development of America’s natural resources.” He cites Haaland’s support of a bill authored by Minnesota Fourth District Rep. Betty McCollum, that would expand the existing mining buffer zone around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness by 234,000 acres. That additional buffer zone would impact sulfide-based mining but would not apply to taconite mining in the affected acres.
Stauber also takes issue with Haaland’s support for the Green New Deal, leveling claims about the broad proposal that have been largely debunked. He cites a center-right think tank, known as the American Action Forum, as a source for his astonishing claim that the Green New Deal would cost the United States $93 trillion annually.
In fact, the American Action Forum makes no such claim. Their critical analysis, which does total $93 trillion, is a ten-year estimate, not an annual expense. And the vast majority (approximately 85-90 percent) of that expense is for universal health care coverage and a jobs guarantee, not for the clean energy transition that is the primary focus of the proposal.
Advocates of the Green New Deal cite any number of economic analyses that show the net result of the investments recommended as part of the proposal would yield significant new job creation.
Tribal officials say they recognize the need for balance between environmental protection and the need for jobs. “We understand that you walk a fine line in the Eighth District in balancing the interests of industry versus the environment,” wrote Mille Lacs Band Chair Melanie Benjamin in a separate letter to Stauber. “Your letter cites your concern about jobs yet Indian tribes are the largest employer in your district.”
Tribal officials, in their joint letter, are calling on Stauber to end his efforts to derail Haaland’s nomination. “Ultimately, Indian tribes are eager to see how Rep. Haaland in her appointment as the Secretary will lead and transform the function of many Interior divisions on behalf of Tribes and enhance self-determination and self-governance within this next administration.”
The Timberjay sought comment for this story from Congressman Stauber’s office. He did not respond.