Week ahead: Confirmation votes lined up for Energy, Interior picks

Week ahead: Confirmation votes lined up for Energy, Interior picks
© Greg Nash

The Senate is set to resume work on confirming President Trump's Cabinet nominees in the coming week, including two in the energy and environment sphere.

Senators will vote to end debate on Rep. Ryan Zinke's (R-Mont.) nomination to lead the Interior Department on Monday, setting up a final confirmation vote later in the week. The nomination of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to be Energy Secretary is still pending, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellGOP at decisive moment on Planned Parenthood Opioid crisis threatens GOP ObamaCare repeal Trump making calls to senators on healthcare bill MORE (R-Ky.) has teed up a vote on him, as well.

Zinke and Perry both went through confirmation hearings in January. Democrats are concerned about Trump's plans for the Energy Department and urged Perry to defend the agency's research. They pushed Zinke on public lands issues, an issue on which he holds relatively moderate views. And both Zinke and Perry professed to believe in climate change, though they said they think there is room for debate over the impact of humans.

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Regardless, the nominations aren't seen as being particularly controversial. A handful of Democrats voted for both nominees when the Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced them in January, indicating the two will receive bipartisan votes on the Senate floor.

That will stand in stark contrast to Trump's new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Scott Pruitt, who was confirmed to his position on a tense 52-46 vote earlier this month. Expect more information in the coming week about Pruitt's tenure as Oklahoma attorney general.

On Wednesday, the Oklahoma attorney general's office released more than 7,000 pages of emails from Pruitt's time in that position after a liberal open-government group sued to see the documents. The office was due to respond to five more open records requests from the group in the week ahead, but Oklahoma officials have asked the state Supreme Court to push back that deadline. The court will hold a hearing on the request on Tuesday.

President Trump will address Congress for the first time on Tuesday night. Energy watchers will scour the speech for any indication about how he will address environmental regulations and other issues. Trump is reportedly considering issuing executive orders taking aim at the EPA, but he's yet to telegraph exactly what he will do, or when he will do it. Tuesday's speech could offer hints.

On Capitol Hill, the House Science Committee on Tuesday, is holding a hearing called "At What Cost? Examining the Social Cost of Carbon." The hearing will examine the government's use of a climate change accounting metric. The meeting comes after past Science Committee hearings looking at the future of the EPA, an Energy Department loan program, and NASA, that sparked controversy.

On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on "flood control infrastructure" in light of "questions raised by current events." The hearing will come after damage to the Oroville Dam in California raised fresh questions about the safety of the nation's infrastructure.

Elsewhere, a federal judge on Tuesday will hear a fresh round of arguments on the Dakota Access pipeline. South Dakota's Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has sued against the project, saying it threatens sacred waters in Lake Oahe, under which the pipeline passes.

Patricia Espinosa, the secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, will speak at Georgetown University on Tuesday. Her appearance comes amid fresh questions about the Trump administration's continued involvement in international climate work.

 

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