Senate confirms Moniz as Energy secretary

The Senate on Thursday voted 97-0 to approve President Obama’s nominee to head the Department of Energy.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) hailed the fact that Ernest Moniz had broad bipartisan support.

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“I think it is good when we are able to stand as the chairman and ranking member and really come to terms of agreement and support for an individual,” Murkowski said ahead of the confirmation vote.

Wyden said Moniz “is smart about energy policy” and “savvy” about how the Department of Energy operates.

“There are huge challenges ahead of him at the Department of Energy, but I believe he is very qualified,” Wyden said.

Moniz, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist who served as undersecretary of Energy in the Clinton administration, replaces former Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

“The Senate is poised to confirm someone who is extremely well-qualified for secretary of Energy and prove that the American Dream is alive and well,” Sen. Mo Cowan (D-Mass.) said. “Through the MIT energy initiative, he has been on the forefront of energy technology.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had been holding up a vote over his concerns about federal management of a program in his state to transform weapons-grade plutonium into fuel. But he removed that hold last week.

“I put a hold on Dr. Moniz not because of anything to do with him. He’s a wonderful fellow,” Graham said ahead of the vote. “The reason we put a hold on his nomination was to get attention.”

— Ben Geman contributed to this report.