Washington • The Senate on Monday confirmed Dan Brouillette, a former lobbyist for Ford Motor Co., to be President Donald Trump’s second secretary of energy, replacing Rick Perry, who has become embroiled in the impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Senators voted 70-15 in favor of Brouillette’s confirmation. Several Democrats, including Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, joined Republicans in approving him.
Since 2017, Brouillette has been Perry’s second in command at the Department of Energy. He has pressed the Trump administration’s policy of “energy dominance,” which includes the rapid expansion oil and gas drilling and a bolstering of U.S. fossil fuel exports.
“I’m proud to have been a small part of the incredible success we have seen in American energy,” Brouillette told lawmakers at his Senate confirmation hearing in November.
While Brouillette sailed through a confirmation vote before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last month, lawmakers on Monday criticized him for not answering questions about Perry’s dealings in Ukraine. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said that Brouillette “failed to provide substantive answers to key questions about Mr. Perry’s dealings.” He called Brouillette’s lack of response a “full-court stonewall.”
Other Democrats came to Brouillette’s defense.
“He’s up to this enormous task. He’s a good man,” Manchin said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he hoped to see continued funding increases for Energy Department research centers such as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in his state. “He understands the important work being done there,” he said.
Brouillette has promised to fight for the Department of Energy’s budget, even though the administration in the past has proposed cutting some agency programs by more than half and eliminating key research and development programs like the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The bulk of the department’s budget goes to nuclear weapons research, development, maintenance and cleanup.
He also has walked a fine line on climate change. Brouillette has described planetary warming as “something we need to work on” but has questioned the scientific consensus that climate change poses a serious threat. He has promoted statistics that show U.S. emissions have fallen 13% since 2005, but he also is a critic of the Paris Agreement, a pledge among nearly every nation to curb emissions that Trump intends to abandon.
Brouillette has argued that reductions of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are being nullified by rising emissions in China.
In replacing Perry, Brouillette becomes the latest lobbyist and seasoned second-in-command to take over for an embattled Cabinet secretary.
Last year Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who worked as the deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Scott Pruitt, took the helm when Pruitt resigned amid ethics scandals. David Bernhardt, an oil and gas lobbyist, served as deputy to Ryan Zinke, Trump’s first secretary of the Interior Department, then assumed the top position when Zinke departed, also facing ethics investigations.
Perry, a former Texas governor who once embraced abolishing the Energy Department, has largely avoided scandal, and Trump has at various times reportedly considered him for other high-profile posts in the administration. Perry has returned the admiration, saying recently that Trump was “ordained by God” to lead the country.
But in recent weeks, Perry has emerged as a player in the impeachment proceedings against Trump, facing scrutiny over his role in promoting energy exports to Ukraine and whether he was involved in the withholding of military aid to the country.
Before becoming deputy energy secretary, Brouillette was chief of staff to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and was assistant secretary of energy for congressional and intergovernmental affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He also worked as an executive at the United Services Automobile Association, a financial services provider to members of the military, and Ford.
Brouillette is a Louisiana native and a graduate of the University of Maryland. He and his wife, Adrienne, are Army veterans and longtime Republican donors. According to OpenSecrets.org, a website that tracks money in politics, Brouillette and his wife gave $30,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2012 and more than $50,000 to Republican candidates, including Perry, between 2005-16.