Haaland won’t comment on Biden’s fitness, defends his record

By Robin Bravender | 07/09/2024 04:38 PM EDT

The Interior secretary praised her boss during a stop in Michigan where she touted the Biden administration’s investments in tribal communities. 

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks at an event in Shelbyville, Michigan, on Tuesday. Robin Bravender/POLITICO's E&E News

SHELBYVILLE, Michigan — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland declined to opine Tuesday on whether she thinks President Joe Biden is fit for his job.

At an event touting the administration’s climate change investments in tribal communities, Haaland said she could not answer a question about whether the president is up for his current job.

“I can’t comment on the election at all,” the Interior secretary said. The Hatch Act bars federal employees from advocating for political candidates while they’re on duty.


Haaland defended Biden’s record at the event, crediting him with investments in Indian country and “making sure that tribal consultation is a priority for our government.”

The Interior secretary is “incredibly proud,” she said, “to be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in the history of our country.”

“I think that representation matters,” she said. “The president promised to have a Cabinet that looks like America. He has followed through on every single promise that he has made to the American people.”

Biden officials and Cabinet members are facing questions about the president’s fitness for his job in the wake of a debate that Biden himself called a bad night that was followed by a flurry of tough press and calls from some Democrats for the 81-year-old to drop out of the November presidential race.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was asked about Biden’s cognitive ability during a House hearing Tuesday, where she defended the president.

“The president is extremely effective in the meetings I’ve been in with him,” Yellen said Tuesday in an exchange with New York Republican Rep. Mike Lawler. Yellen also said there had been no discussions among Cabinet members about invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows a Cabinet to remove a president from office.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm campaigned for the president in her personal capacity earlier this month, following the debate.

Biden is vowing to stay in the presidential race despite concerns from some members of his party about his health and his ability to fend off Trump in November.

“We do want to turn the page,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday as she faced questions about the president’s mental acuity. “We want to get to the other side of this. We want to continue doing the work,” she said.