President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Energy (DOE) said he regrets advocating the agency’s elimination during his 2012 presidential campaign.
“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in prepared remarks before Thursday’s confirmation hearings.
He will likely face questions from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources about his views on climate change as well.
“In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination,” Perry noted, referring to clunky comments he made during a presidential debate in 2012.
Trump’s DOE nominee famously forgot that the Energy Department was one of a handful of federal agencies he promised to nix were he to become president. Perry ticked off a number of agencies he would eliminate before drawing a blank on Energy Department.
He later blurted out: “By the way, that was the Department of Energy I was reaching for a while ago.” But the embarrassing gaff effectively ended Perry’s 2012 White House bid — he launched another unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2016 as well.
Democrats blanched at Perry’s comments. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, for instance, expressed concerns over Perry’s past calls to eliminate the agency he now wishes to lead.
“It’s a problem for me. To put this man in charge of a department, which—when he remembered—he wanted to abolish makes no sense at all,“ Durbin said. ”It’s almost spiteful.”
Perry also seems willing to concede that climate change is both real and likely caused by humans. Perry said in the prepared remarks that climate change is real, but any proposed solutions cannot come into conflict with American business.
“I believe the climate is changing. I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made activity,” Perry is expected to say in his testimony. “The question is how do we address it in a thoughtful way that doesn’t compromise economic growth, the affordability of energy, or American jobs.”
Perry’s comments are similar to those made Wednesday by Trump’s nominee for UN Ambassador, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
“I think the climate change issue should always be on the table, but we don’t want the Paris agreement to interfere with our economy,” the Republican governor told senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation.
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