Former Texas Governor Rick Perry drew closer to confirmation as Energy Secretary, as the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee elected Tuesday to move his nomination to the senate floor.
With bipartisan support, the committee voted 16-7 in favor of Perry. The Interior Secretary nominee Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., also was cleared by the committee.
The vote followed a tempered appearance by Perry in his confirmation hearing earlier thi s month, as the former Texas governor pulled back on his more controversial positions on climate change research and the usefulness of the Department of Energy, seemingly charming his critics with the sense of humor that helped make him one of the state’s most successful politicians.
Perry, nominated as Energy Secretary last month by President Donald Trump, offered a mea culpa for his proposal during a failed presidential bid in 2011 to eliminate the agency he is expected to lead, telling the Senate and Energy Natural Resources Committee that he regretted it, “after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy.”
And in a stark turnaround from statements made during his 14-year tenure as governor of Texas – he once described climate science as a “contrived, phony mess” – Perry said, “I believe the climate is changing. I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made activity.”
But it was not enough to convince some Democrats on the committee, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen Al Franken, D-Minn., who voted against the former Texas governor.
Ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., expressed concern Tuesday around Perry’s responses to questions on whether President Donald Trump intended to cut funding to Department of Energy research into areas like energy efficiency.
“It left me wondering whether he would stand up and fight the White Houses approach,” Cantwell said.
Perry is expected to easily win confirmation when the Senate does vote – a date for which had not yet been set Tuesday morning.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairwoman of senate energy committee, said she expected floor votes on Perry and Zinke quickly as they had drawn “less controversy” than other Trump nominees.
“The bipartisan support will be attractive,” she said.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was not wasting any time praising his fellow Texan.
“Under Rick Perry’s leadership, Texas experienced innovative growth in our energy sector, which translated to more jobs and lower prices for families across our state. I’m confident he’ll replicate this success at a national level and help launch the next great era in American energy production,” Cornyn said in a statement Tuesday.