Amid jostling for Biden energy roles, New Mexicans stake claim on Interior

The state’s Rep. Deb Haaland and Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have become increasingly visible in pitching themselves as potential heads of the Interior Department, sources following the jockeying said.

Haaland, the vice chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, didn’t deny her interest in the role as she touted her potential inclusion in a potential candidates’ list as a historic first.

“I’m honored that people believe in my leadership in protecting our public lands and combating climate change,” said the first-term House member who previously served as the state’s Democratic Party chair. “It is also meaningful that our country has finally reached the point where having the first Native American Cabinet Secretary is a serious consideration. I am open to those opportunities where I can best serve New Mexico, Indian Country and our country at large.”

Udall’s office declined to comment, and pointed to his March 2019 announcement that he would not seek reelection to the Senate but that he was not done with public life.

“Now, I’m most certainly not retiring,” Udall said in that video. “I intend to find new ways to serve New Mexico and our country after I finish this term. There will be more chapters in my public service to do what needs to be done.”

A source familiar with Udall’s thinking told POLITICO he would consider the position if asked.

Udall comes from a storied political family. His father, Stewart Udall, led Interior for eight years under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations where he oversaw the dramatic expansion of millions of acres of public lands and assisted in passage of bedrock environmental statues, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Haaland’s backers are pushing for her to make history as the first Native American to serve in a presidential cabinet. She’s also teamed up with Udall as a lead sponsor of a resolution S. Res. 372 (116) setting a national goal of conserving 30 percent of U.S. land and oceans by 2030.

Staff for Heinrich, now in his second term in the Senate, demurred when asked about his interest, with one aide saying that he “is laser focused on doing absolutely everything in his power to ensure Joe Biden is elected president, so we can end Trump’s war on our public land and put millions of Americans back to work restoring our natural resources.”

Heinrich has played key roles behind-the-scenes in getting two major public lands packages —the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, S. 47 (116) and the Great American Outdoors Act, H.R. 1957 (116) — across the finish line this Congress. And he led Democrats’ charge to remove William Perry Pendley from atop the Bureau of Land Management, and is well-connected within influential sportsmens groups.

All three New Mexicans have been visible surrogates for the Biden campaign. Haaland is a member of the campaign’s Climate Engagement Advisory Council and hosted a fundraiser for the campaign alongside Udall in late June. Heinrich hosted his own fundraiser

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The House’s stake in filibuster reform

A spate of articles over the summer from Richard Arenberg, Norm Ornstein and Ronald Brownstein, as well as remarks by former President Barack Obama at the funeral of Rep. John LewisJohn LewisHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Underwood takes over as chair of House cybersecurity panel Trump to pay respects to Ginsburg at Supreme Court MORE, have fueled a vigorous debate over the merits, liabilities and necessity of ending (or modifying) the Senate’s filibuster tradition. Should Democrats win this November’s trifecta and control the White House, House of Representatives and the Senate, precious little of a Biden agenda will see the light of day in any recognizable form if it must surmount Rule 22’s 60-vote supermajority in the Senate.

Historically, requiring a supermajority to end Senate debate was intended to provide the minority at least one step in the legislative process to flex its muscle and force concessions. But the filibuster no longer is employed to address the minority’s understandable frustration at being at a legislative disadvantage. Filled with what former Sen. Byron Dorgan described as “100 human brake pads,” the current filibuster doesn’t pause the process to allow the minority to engage; it kills the process dead in its tracks. What the Senate needs is fewer brake pads and more an ignition switch.

But even if it functioned as intended, the filibuster enables a dangerous and anti-democratic distortion of the functioning of Congress. The Senate is already a patently undemocratic institution merely due to its constitutional design. When the Constitution was ratified, the ratio between the largest and smallest states — each having two senators — was 17:1. Today, that ratio has swelled to 70:1, and while large and small states do not break down as reliably favoring one party, the power of a large number of small states to influence the legislation affecting the vast majority of Americans defies the basic principles of democratic governance.

The filibuster exacerbates the undemocratic nature of the Senate by undermining equity between the two houses of the Congress. Specifically, disproportionate power in the Senate undermines the influence of people of color and women who are far more significantly represented in the House. By creating what is often, in a closely divided and ideologically partisan Senate, a nearly insurmountable barrier to passing legislation, the filibuster gives senators the ability to pressure House members, and the diverse constituencies they represent, to either accept whatever version of legislation can squeak its way through the Senate or accept the inevitability of inaction.

Senators might complain about the problems the filibuster presents, but they also relish the parliamentary advantage the 60-vote margin affords them over the House. Every House member involved in negotiations with the Senate has been told the House version is dead on arrival in the Senate, and the House must take whatever can get 60 votes in the Senate. Those

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