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Senate panel approves Biden’s nomination of UW Native American Law Center director as top Interior Department lawyer

UPDATED: Thu., July 22, 2021

WASHINGTON – A Senate committee on Thursday approved the longtime director of the University of Washington’s Native American Law Center as the top lawyer at the Interior Department, advancing President Joe Biden’s nomination to a final vote of the full Senate.

By a vote of 10 to 9, with two Republicans joining the panel’s Democrats and one senator absent, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Bob Anderson’s nomination as solicitor of the Interior Department, a role in which he will lead a staff of more than 500 in the agency that includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and more.

Anderson, a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe, has been serving in the role since Biden appointed him in an acting capacity in January. He previously served for 20 years as a law professor at the University of Washington and led the school’s Native American Law Center, while also serving as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School for the past 12 years.

Brian Gunn, a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes and an attorney who represents several Northwest tribes on federal policy matters, said Anderson’s experience bodes well for the Northwest.

“Anderson has had a long career in both the federal government and academia that has focused on public lands, natural resources and Indian law,” Gunn said. “For the kinds of legal issues that Interior will consider in the Pacific Northwest region, I’m not sure that there is more a qualified candidate for solicitor.”

The Republican senators who voted in favor were Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi.

Orion Donovan-Smith's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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