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Rick Perry confirmed as Trump's energy secretary

From Wire and Staff Reports
March 2, 2017 at 1:17 p.m.
Updated March 2, 2017 at 10:08 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence administers the oath of office to Energy Secretary Rick Perry as his wife Anita holds the Bible, Thursday, March 2, 2017, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The U.S. Senate's confirmation of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as the next secretary of the Department of Energy was cheered Thursday by Texas Republicans who said it was good news for the energy industry — and the state.

"Secretary Perry will help develop a strategic energy vision for our nation that will lead to a higher level of energy security," said Todd Staples of Palestine, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association. "As governor, he saw dynamic growth in energy development, both oil and natural gas but wind energy as well. Texas being No. 1 in the nation for oil and gas, natural gas, pipelines and refineries, we will continue to play a major, leading role in America's energy security."

As President Donald Trump's Energy secretary, Perry also will be responsible for maintaining the security of the nation's nuclear weapons. During his confirmation hearing, Perry vowed repeatedly to "modernize the nation's nuclear stockpile." What that will mean in the Trump administration remains to be seen, as Trump has indicated he wants to "expand" America's nuclear arsenal and has said he is willing to restart a nuclear arms race.

Perry was confirmed Thursday afternoon on a 62-37 vote that included the support of both Texans in the chamber, Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Ten Democrats joined Republicans in voting to confirm Perry's nomination.

Cornyn echoed Staples' sentiment that Perry's energy department would not focus solely on oil and gas. During his confirmation hearing, Perry said he would seek to develop American energy in all forms, from oil, gas and nuclear power to renewable sources such as wind and solar power.

"Thanks to his commonsense approach to regulation and support for thoughtful innovation, Texas became a state where all energy producers could thrive," Cornyn said. "Under Secretary Perry's guidance, I have no doubt the Department of Energy will pursue an all-of-the-above strategy that will lead to the next great era of American energy."

As he moves into his new role, Perry is taking the helm of the department he famously forgot during a presidential debate in 2011 while trying to list the three he said he wanted to eliminate.

Because of that "oops" moment and other stumbles, his confirmation marks a striking comeback for Perry, who struggled for years after his 2011 presidential campaign and was a contestant late last year on "Dancing With the Stars."

But over the course of his confirmation, the former governor presented himself as more polished than some of his past public flubs had suggested, deftly handling questioning during his hearing before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy.

In fact, though Perry has at times been a lightning rod in Texas, he was one of the least controversial nominees Trump has put forward for his Cabinet. Much of that ease came from Perry's comments during his confirmation hearing, when he said he would rely on federal scientists to pursue "sound science" as energy secretary — and that human activity has contributed to climate change.

Democrats say they accept Perry's disavowal of his 2011 pledge to abolish the department, but worry he may not stand up to GOP proposals to slash its budget.

Cutting it apparently is the aim of U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican who attended Texas A&M University with Perry.

"This department, like so many others, has fallen victim to excessive bureaucracy and bloated government spending accounts that detract from its original mission," he 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."

Perry becomes the third Texan to serve as secretary of energy. Houstonian Charles Duncan served in the post under President Jimmy Carter, as did Laredo native Federico Peña in the Clinton administration.

Staples, a former East Texas state senator and state agriculture secretary, said he was pleased Trump's cabinet now has two Texans, with Perry being confirmed after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Wichita Falls native who is former CEO of ExxonMobil Corp.

"That's good for America with two Texans on there, for sure," he said. "It's good for the Lone Star State."

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