Senate Budget Request Hearing Raises Questions About Biden Administration Internal Communications

As gasoline prices reach record highs, leadership questions arise in the Biden administration: Is there a major lack of internal communication and strategy at the agency overseeing oil and gas leasing? The answer to that may not be as clear as one would expect following bipartisan questioning of Interior Sec. Deb Haaland.

During Sec. Haaland’s testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Dept. of Interior released a press release that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) took as confirmation that the department has no intention of conducting offshore lease sales:

“It looks like y’all are going to shut everything down. Did you know you all put this out? … My god somebody, this shuts it down. This shows what your intent is.”

Sec. Haaland seemed to be unaware the statement was being released, let alone in the middle of the hearing:

 “I’m sorry, I’m sitting in this hearing, I don’t…”

Shortly after, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) questioned Sec. Haaland on recent comments from White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy regarding Interior’s oil and natural gas leasing program and cancelation of offshore sales:

Sen. Lee: “Gina McCarthy, the White House Climate Advisor, told an CBS reporter that an offshore lease sale had been canceled. But she did so before the cancelation was even made public. Did you authorize Ms. McCarthy to make that statement?

Sec. Haaland:I don’t believe I spoke with Ms. McCarthy that day.”

Sen. Lee: “So you did not authorize it. Just last month, Ms. McCarthy told MSNBC that President Biden Remains absolutely committed to not moving forward with additional drilling on public lands. Do you agree with Ms. McCarthy on that statement? Yes or no.

Sec. Haaland: “Senator, I am working to lead the Department of the Interior…”

Sen. Lee: “Do you agree with the statement or not?”

Sec. Haaland: “I don’t know. I don’t speak with Ms. McCarthyI don’t speak with them about any statements that they make.” (emphasis added)

The lack of coordination that appears to be happening within the Biden administration certainly explains some of the mixed messages that continue to come from cabinet members, but also raises grave concerns given the essential role Interior has in navigating the present-day energy crisis.

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