Multiple Senate confirmation hearings overlapped last week, forcing members to scurry to and from simultaneous committee meetings.
A confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for Representative Ryan Zinke, nominee for Secretary of the Department of Interior (which includes the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Park Service), was one of the more contentious ones. Rep. Zinke vowed not to sell nor lease public lands and emphasized support for allowing for extraction activities within them. He acknowledged the changing climate while stepping back from an earlier, stronger stance that called it a ‘threat multiplier’ in respect to national security and committed to maintaining science funding levels with particular interest in more research into “clean coal.”
Rick Perry, former Texas governor, had a confirmation hearing as nominee for Secretary of the Department of Energy, which sets energy policies, manages nuclear material and national laboratories, and sponsors more physical science research than any other federal agency. Mr. Perry, faced with persistent questions from democrats, tentatively reversed his earlier stance on climate change denial, praised national laboratories, and vowed to “protect all of the science” and the scientific community. Though both candidates face opposition, their confirmations are expected.
In one of his first actions after taking office, President Trump signed the bill passed by Congress last week that would allow retired Gen. James Mattis to serve as secretary of Defense despite his recent military service. Following this action, the Senate easily approved Mattis’ nomination; only Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) voted against his confirmation because she is opposed to a recently-serving general leading the military. Shortly thereafter, Mattis was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence.