Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Ernest Moniz was confirmed as Secretary of Energy with a 97-0 vote in the U.S. Senate on May 16.
“My Senate colleagues recognize that Dr. Moniz is smart, he is savvy about how the Department of Energy operates because he has been there before, and he has a proven track record of collaboration, which is just what you need when you’re leading the Department of Energy,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement. Wyden chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Moniz served in DOE during the Clinton administration as Under Secretary of Energy from 1997 to 2001.
The Moniz confirmation drew yes votes from both Republican senators from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. The GOP lawmakers have accused the Obama administration on waffling on completion of a facility at the Savannah River Site that would dispose of surplus weapons-grade plutonium and convert it into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for use in nuclear power plants.
Graham had briefly held up the Moniz nomination on the MOX issue. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., reached an agreement with Republicans to bring the Moniz vote to the floor.
The Senate Energy panel voted to approve Moniz April 18. At that hearing, Moniz was endorsed by former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., the previous committee chairman, and Retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Brent. Scowcroft. Scowcroft has been a national defense advisor to many Republican administrations.
“You may prove to be that rare nominee that generates bipartisan support,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who is the ranking Republican on the committee.
In addition to his MIT work, Moniz also recently served on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, which was appointed by department Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
In other confirmation news, the nomination of Gina McCarthy to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was passed out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on a 10-8 vote. She must still be approved by the full Senate.