Perry regrets saying he would abolish Energy Department

Rick Perry on Thursday backtracked from his 2011 campaign promise to abolish the Department of Energy, which he is now nominated to lead.

"My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry said at his confirmation hearing Thursday to be secretary of Energy.

“In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”

Perry, during his first presidential run in 2011, supported eliminating the Department of Energy if elected, though he famously forgot to list it during a Republican primary debate that year where he tried to tick off the agencies he would eliminate.

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President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE nominated Perry to lead the department in December.

Perry, according to a Wednesday report in the New York Times, didn’t understand the breadth or mission of the Energy Department when he was nominated for the position, thinking it was mainly about the promotion of oil and gas.

But during his hearing before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, Perry said he fully understands the agency’s agenda.

“I am committed to modernizing our nuclear stockpile, promoting and developing American energy in all forms, advancing the department’s critical science and technology mission, and carefully disposing of nuclear waste,” he said.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Green groups sue Trump over Endangered Species Act changes | Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency | Wildfires in Amazon rainforest burn at record rate Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency out west The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE (R-Alaska), the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, didn't mention Perry’s previous remarks on the agency on Thursday.

“I don’t subscribe to the theory that only scientists can manage other scientists,” Murkowski said, noting the agency’s research mission.

“I think what we need is a good manager. We need a manager to manage all these scientists, one who acknowledges, maybe I don’t know everything in that space, but being capable of organizing, setting direction, imposing accountability, making the greatest possible use of taxpayer dollars and setting goals.”

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellWill Congress act to stop robocalls? Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment Hillicon Valley: Trump reportedly weighing executive action on alleged tech bias | WH to convene summit on online extremism | Federal agencies banned from buying Huawei equipment | Lawmakers jump start privacy talks MORE (D-Wash.) took a subtle dig at Perry during her introductory remarks at his hearing.

“In case you may have forgotten, you once called for the abolishment of the agency," she said. “I expect now, having had the chance to learn about the department, you have a very different opinion.”