Senate confirms Brouillette to succeed Perry as Energy secretary

Republican donor and former business executive will take over one of the most technically complicated departments in the federal bureaucracy

Brouillette before his confirmation hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Nov. 14. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate voted 70-15 Monday evening to confirm Dan Brouillette to succeed Rick Perry as Energy secretary. 

President Donald Trump nominated Brouillette, a long-time Republican donor and former business executive for Ford Motor Co. and USAA who worked at DOE during the George W. Bush administration, after Perry said in October he would step down.

Brouillette, currently the deputy secretary, will take over one of the most technically complicated departments in the federal bureaucracy, where he will be responsible for nuclear waste cleanup, nuclear weapons safety and the country's 17 national laboratories.

Speaking before the vote, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, praised Brouillette’s work as Perry's deputy. “He has made a good impression on just about everyone, and he is a great choice to replace Secretary Perry,” she said.

The Senate confirmed Brouillette to be deputy secretary in 2017 by a 79-17 vote.

"Rick has done a fantastic job," Trump said when announcing Perry’s departure. "But it was time."

That resignation announcement coincided with growing interest in Perry’s involvement in Trump’s efforts to compel the Ukrainian government to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in exchange for U.S. military aid. 

Those forays are central to House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. 

As secretary, Perry met in Washington and Ukraine with executives of Naftogaz, a state-run energy firm there, and said he sought to place Americans on its board. 

Appearing Nov. 20 in an open session before the House Intelligence Committee, Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, said he worked with Perry and special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker on Ukraine issues “at the express direction” of Trump.

Sondland said he also worked with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, on the “Ukraine file,” as he put it.

"We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt," Sondland told the committee on the fourth day of public impeachment hearings.

Through a department spokeswoman, Shaylyn Hynes, Perry disputed Sondland’s description.

“Ambassador Sondland’s testimony today misrepresented both Secretary Perry’s interaction with Rudy Giuliani and direction the Secretary received from President Trump,” Hynes said in a statement. “Secretary Perry spoke to Rudy Giuliani only once at the president’s request. No one else was on that call.”

Brouillette has denied any direct knowledge of Perry’s ties to Naftogaz. “I am not aware of any conversations between the secretary and anyone at Naftogaz,” he told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at his Nov. 14 confirmation hearing. His nomination was advanced by the panel on Nov. 19.

[Trump's Energy nominee bats away questions about Perry and Ukraine]

Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., spoke in opposition to the nomination and said Brouillette has “failed to provide substantive answers” about the department’s connections to the impeachment inquiry.

“The senate is truly in the dark, lacking answers to important questions,” Wyden said.

“He knows the department well.” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., adding that officials at National Laboratories speak highly of Brouillette. “They feel like he knows them well.”

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