Morning Briefing - November 13, 2019
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November 13, 2019

Confirmation Hearing for Would-Be Energy Secretary Set for Thursday

By ExchangeMonitor

It’s getting real for Dan Brouillette, who is scheduled for a confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in his next official step to joining President Donald Trump’s Cabinet as secretary of energy.

The hearing is set for 10:30 a.m. Eastern time and will be webcast.

Brouillette sailed through his confirmation hearing to be Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s deputy in 2017, but this time, Democratic committee members including Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.) and Martin Heinrich (N.M.) have telegraphed a grilling for the former DOE and Capitol Hill staffer.

Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), on the other hand, signaled support for Brouillette right after Trump nominated him earlier this month. Perry is set to resign Dec. 1.

If confirmed as the DOE boss, Brouillette would be in charge of an annual budget exceeding $30 billion. About two-thirds of that is devoted either to nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons cleanup.

Cortez Masto wants Brouillette to reaffirm Perry’s promise that the Energy Department will remove half a metric ton of weapon-usable plutonium from the Nevada National Security Site by 2026. In October, after Brouillette’s nomination was announced, she also said “it’s imperative that our next Energy Secretary respect the voices of the overwhelming majority of Nevadans who oppose the Yucca Mountain [nuclear waste disposal] project.”

Meanwhile, Heinrich has said he wants Brouillette to shed more light on Perry’s refusal to cooperate with the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment investigation of Trump. Perry has acknowledged that, at the president’s direction, he worked with Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, to arrange a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Current and former administration officials familiar with the July call have testified to the House Intelligence Committee that Trump appeared to condition delivery of congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine on Kiev’s willingness to investigate Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential hopeful and former vice president Joe Biden. The younger Biden was once a member of the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company.

Republicans have a majority in the Senate, and so could push Brouillette out of the committee, onto the Senate floor, and into Perry’s office with a simple majority. The trick would be getting Brouilette a timely floor vote as Congress struggles to pass a budget during the few legislative weeks left before a presidential election year.