WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday confirmed former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as President Donald Trump’s energy secretary, by a vote of 62-37.
The approval came hours after retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was confirmed as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 58-41.
Carson and Perry are the 17th and 18th of Trump’s 22 Cabinet and Cabinet-level nominations to win Senate approval.
Perry, who once pledged to eliminate the department, has repeatedly promised to be an advocate for the agency and to protect the nation’s nuclear stockpile. Perry also pledged to rely on federal scientists, including those who work on climate change.
Perry, who served 14 years as Texas governor, has said he will seek to develop American energy in all forms, from oil, gas and nuclear power to renewable sources such as wind and solar power.
Democrats say they accept Perry’s disavowal of his 2011 pledge to abolish the department, but they worry he may not stand up to GOP proposals to slash the department’s budget.
Perry, 66, told a Senate committee that he regrets his infamous statement about abolishing the department and insisted it performs critical functions, particularly in protecting and modernizing the nation’s nuclear stockpile.
During Perry’s tenure as governor, Texas maintained its traditional role as a top driller for oil and natural gas, while also emerging as the leading producer of wind power in the United States and a top provider of solar power.
GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who leads the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Perry was a strong leader with a record of getting results.
Democrats and environmental groups have derided Perry’s nomination, calling him a steep drop-off from the two renowned physicists who preceded him as energy chief, Steven Chu and Ernest Moniz.
Perry earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas A&M University, where he was also a member of the Corps of Cadets and a Yell Leader.
Carson, 65, will lead an agency with some 8,300 employees and a budget of about $47 billion. The department provides billions of dollars in housing assistance to low-income people through vouchers and public housing. It also enforces fair housing laws and offers mortgage insurance to poorer Americans through the Federal Housing Administration, part of HUD.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.