Innovation focal point for incoming Senate Energy member

“He certainly understands the opportunities that are inherent in a low-carbon economy,” Heinrich told The Hill in a phone interview. “One of the things our country does better than anyone else in the world is innovation. ... He intuitively gets those opportunities.”

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Heinrich comes to the Senate with a green pedigree. Green groups actively campaigned for him during the 2012 race, helping him beat rival former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.).

While Heinrich enters the committee with an environmental background, he said that should not be a problem for Democratic colleagues such as Sens. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Five unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist MORE (La.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenate Dems: We won't help pass additional health bills RNC drops six-figure ad buy for Supreme Court, healthcare fight Repeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate MORE (W.Va.) — or, for that matter, Republicans.

Landrieu represents a state with substantial offshore oil drilling, and has sought to expand it. Manchin comes from a coal-heavy state, and has pushed back against various Environmental Protection Agency air pollution rules.

He said lawmakers of all stripes would support his three biggest priorities — securing basic research funding, and improving education and infrastructure.

Heinrich also comes from a state with two federal research laboratories. He said wants to turn those into bases for innovation to complement their current roles of promoting nuclear deterrence.

“I really think our national labs can be engines of innovation and should be broad, national security institutions on things like energy security, not just the nuclear deterrence,” Heinrich said.