Se­nate con­firms Perry as en­ergy sec­re­tary

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan Tilove jtilove@states­

The U.S. Se­nate voted 62-37 Thurs­day to con­firm Rick Perry, the long­est-serv­ing gov­er­nor in Texas his­tory, as sec­re­tary of en­ergy in Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s Cab­i­net.

Perry — who ran twice for pres­i­dent with­out suc­cess, beat an in­dict­ment that had ac­cused him of abus­ing his power at the tail end of his ten­ure as gov­er­nor, and last fall made a brief but ex­u­ber­ant run on “Danc­ing With The Stars” — was among the last of Trump’s Cab­i­net choices to win con­fir­ma­tion, though that had less to do with any spe­cial an­i­mus against Perry than with Democrats’ slow-walk­ing the new pres­i­dent’s nom­i­nees through the con­fir­ma­tion process.

Perry picked up the votes of 10 Demo­cratic se­na­tors and U.S. Sen. An­gus King, the Maine in­de­pen­dent who cau­cuses with the Democrats.

His Demo­cratic sup­port­ers in­cluded Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of shale-boom North Dakota, Joe Manchin of coal-rich West Vir­ginia and Cather­ine Cortez Masto, who op­poses sit­ing a nu­clear waste stor­age fa­cil­ity at Yucca Moun­tain in her state of Ne­vada, an is­sue she pressed Perry on at his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, with­out get­ting a defini­tive an­swer.

The Se­nate ear­lier voted to con­firm Dr. Ben Car­son as sec­re­tary of the U.S. De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment, on

a 58-41 vote.

At his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, Perry sought to smooth some hard edges on en­ergy and environmental is­sues, say­ing, “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. The ques­tion is how do we ad­dress it in a thought­ful way that doesn’t com­pro­mise eco­nomic growth, the af­ford­abil­ity of en­ergy or Amer­i­can jobs?”

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chair­woman of the Se­nate En­ergy and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Com­mit­tee, opened the Se­nate de­bate Thurs­day with a ring­ing en­dorse­ment of Perry.

Un­like his pre­de­ces­sors, Murkowski said, “he’s not an award-win­ning sci­en­tist, but you don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to have a sci­en­tist in or­der to lead sci­en­tists. You need to have some­body who is a good, strong, com­pe­tent and ca­pa­ble man­ager, and that’s what Gov. Perry has demon­strated and that’s what the De­part­ment of En­ergy needs.”

“The man was born to lead,” said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

“Dur­ing his gov­er­nor­ship, Texas be­came known as the eco­nomic en­gine that could pull the train of the U.S. econ­omy and could weather even the tough­est na­tional eco­nomic down­turn,” Cornyn said.

“Un­der Gov. Perry’s lead­er­ship the state pro­moted cut­ting-edge in­no­va­tion and sen­si­ble reg­u­la­tion in or­der to foster an all-of-the-above en­ergy strat­egy that rev­o­lu­tion­ized the Texas en­ergy land­scape and the Texas econ­omy,” Cornyn said. “The state be­came not just an oi­land-gas pow­er­house but the top wind-pro­duc­ing state.”

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing Demo­crat, spoke against Perry’s con­fir­ma­tion, say­ing he wasn’t a 21st-cen­tury leader on en­ergy is­sues. She cited his fail­ure to op­pose Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion moves away from the com­mit­ments by both the George W. Bush and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tions to re­new­able en­ergy and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency.

Cantwell also noted that most Amer­i­cans may “re­mem­ber him for his fa­mous quip about want­ing to get rid of an agency but then not re­mem­ber­ing the name of the agency, and the agency he was talk­ing about was the De­part­ment of En­ergy.”

That is a ref­er­ence to Perry’s “oops” mo­ment at Novem­ber 2011 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial de­bate, an in­deli­ble blun­der that his ten­ure atop the agency might fi­nally give him a chance to live down.

Through­out his ca­reer, Perry has proved an ir­re­press­ible politi­cian who is most happy in the thick of the ac­tion and wasn’t nearly ready to exit pub­lic life for the quiet of a Round Top re­tire­ment.

In his short-lived sec­ond cam­paign for pres­i­dent, Perry was among Trump’s fiercest crit­ics.

“I will not go quiet when this can­cer on con­ser­vatism threat­ens to metas­ta­size into a move­ment of mean-spir­ited pol­i­tics that will send the Repub­li­can Party to the same place it sent the Whig Party in 1854: the grave­yard,” Perry de­clared in a July 2015 speech.

But, 10 months later, days af­ter Trump’s vic­tory seemed se­cure, Perry, on the oc­ca­sion of his of­fi­cial por­trait be­ing un­veiled at the Capi­tol Ro­tunda, made clear that he didn’t want to go qui­etly at all, of­fer­ing to serve Trump in any ca­pac­ity from vice pres­i­dent on down.

For­mer Gov. Rick Perry will now lead the agency whose name he for­got in 2011 de­bate.

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