Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stopped throwing a temper tantrum and took a deep breath for long enough Thursday to allow the Senate to unanimously confirm Ernest Moniz as secretary of energy.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics professor and fossil fuel-industry fan was confirmed with a 97-0 vote. The vote had been delayed more than three weeks by Graham in protest over $200 million of planned nuclear energy budget cuts in his state.
Moniz served as an energy undersecretary in the Clinton administration and he is replacing Steven Chu, also a physicist, who is stepping down from the department’s top job.
From the AP, via the Washington Post:
Obama hailed Moniz as “a world-class scientist with expertise in a range of energy sources and a leader with a proven record of bringing prominent thinkers and innovators together to advance new energy solutions.”
Moniz shares his belief that “the United States must lead the world in developing more sustainable sources of energy that create new jobs and new industries, and in responding to the threat of global climate change,” Obama said in a statement.
Environmentalists have warned that Moniz could place energy industry interests ahead of environmental protections. We told you in March about his links to BP, General Electric, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Chevron, and the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center. Big Oil likes him, but so, too, does the cleantech sector, which straddles the energy industry and the climate movement. From a statement issued by Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resch:
Ernest Moniz will be an outstanding Secretary of Energy. As a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics professor, an expert in energy issues and a veteran of Washington politics, he is uniquely qualified to tackle the many policy challenges facing our nation and the world. In today’s combative political environment, his unanimous selection in the Senate stands as a testament to his abilities, as well as to the respect he brings to his new position. We look forward to working with Secretary Moniz on policies and opportunities which will create new American jobs, expand the U.S. economy and provide energy security for our nation.
Oh, and about that three-week delay in the confirmation vote? Graham insists it was nothing personal. Just politics, ya know? From the AP again:
Graham made clear Thursday he had nothing against Moniz, calling him a “fine fellow.” Graham said he has other “leverage points” to continue putting pressure on the Obama administration to fully fund the Savannah River project.
Also Thursday, the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee cleared Obama’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency by a 10-8 vote along partisan lines. The full Senate will now consider Gina McCarthy’s nomination, though more trouble is brewing.
The committee vote was delayed last week by a different Republican tantrum, this one over claims that the EPA hasn’t answered all of the questions put to it by senators. And despite Thursday’s vote, Republicans are threatening to filibuster McCarthy’s nomination over the same complaint once the nomination reaches the Senate floor, The New York Times reported.