Senate Confirms Rick Perry as Energy Secretary

Source: By CORAL DAVENPORT, New York Times • Posted: Friday, March 3, 2017

Rick Perry, a former Texas governor, during his confirmation hearing to become energy secretary in January. Al Drago/The New York Times 

WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Rick Perry on Thursday as the head of the Energy Department, an agency he had once pledged as a presidential candidate to eliminate.

The vote was 62 to 37. Mr. Perry, a former Texas governor, will lead an agency that, despite its name, is largely focused on overseeing the nation’s vast arsenal of nuclear weapons, as well as a network of 17 national scientific laboratories.

In his confirmation hearing, Mr. Perry told senators that he regretted his call in the 2012 campaign to eliminate the agency. His inability to remember the name of the Energy Department in a 2011 debate, even as he called for getting rid of the agency, was widely seen as helping to sink his campaign.

People close to Mr. Perry said that at the time he had believed that the Energy Department was largely focused on developing and promoting the nation’s energy resources. At his January confirmation hearing, Mr. Perry told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that after “being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy,” he now supported its mission.

The agency does play some role in the nation’s energy policy: Its laboratories conduct research into energy technologies that could help fight climate change.

Mr. Perry, who has long called climate change a hoax and mocked the science of human-caused climate change, said he had also changed those views, telling senators: “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.”