Senate confirms Perry as energy secretary

Bloomberg Politics Managing Editor Mark Halperin left, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry right, during a discussion held by Bloomberg, L.P in 2015. ( James Nielsen / Houston Chronicle )

WASHINGTON – Former Texas governor Rick Perry was confirmed as Energy Secretary by the U.S. Senate Thursday afternoon, drawing bipartisan support with a vote of 62-37.

Six weeks after Donald Trump was sworn in as president of the United States, Perry will now be charged with managing an agency that through its energy research programs is at the center of a controversial debate around how to address climate change.

Republicans were quick to cheer his appointment as the beginning of a new direction for the Department of Energy.

“This Department, like so many others, has fallen victim to excessive bureaucracy and bloated government spending accounts that detract from its original mission,” Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who attended Texas A&M with Perry, said in a statement. “Fortunately, we now have a man who possesses a very strong energy background and has a track record of proven executive leadership.”

Trump’s cabinet nominees have drawn strong Democratic opposition, slowing down the process and drawing ire from Republicans.

But Perry, who walked back some of his earlier controversial statements on climate change during his confirmation hearing in January, attracted some bipartisan support. Ten Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, Sen. Claire McCaskill, of Missouri, and Sen. Mark Warner, of Virginia, joined Republicans in voting to confirm Perry’s nomination.

Independent Sen. Angus King, of Maine, also voted for Perry.

Some Democrats expressed concern on whether Perry would roll back efforts to develop clean energy technologies and move them onto the marketplace. But with his promise to promote all forms of energy during his confirmation hearing, some environmentalists expressed hope Perry would continue his work in Texas to expand renewable energy at the national level.

“Perry, who saw firsthand the rise of wind generation in Texas, needs to be an aggressive champion of pioneering advancements,” Abigail Dillen, an attorney at EarthJustice, said in a statement.

Now confirmed, Perry will be the second member of President Trump’s cabinet from Texas, following the confirmation last month of former Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.