Trump nominee won’t say if he supports funding agency he was selected to run
A Trump administration nominee selected to run a science-based agency within the Department of Energy dodged questions on Thursday as to whether he supports funding the office.
Lane Genatowski told members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during his confirmation hearing that he would be happy to lead the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and put his “oar in the water” there, if the agency were indeed funded.
He added, however, that he supports President Trump’s budget.
Trump proposed to zero out the entire program in both of the White House’s 2018 and 2019 fiscal year budgets.
Senators on both sides of the aisle were eager to point out the discrepancy, with some attempting to pigeon hole Genatowski into commenting on whether he agreed with Trump’s decision.
“You said you support the president’s budget — then why are you sitting here?” asked Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). “The president’s budget supports zeroing out ARPA-E. You can’t be two people.”
Genatowski disagreed, but acknowledged the dichotomy.
“In my mind, I could hold both concepts and they wouldn’t be inconsistent. If Congress votes to appropriate money and authorizes money to be appropriated to ARPA-E, and the president signs the bill, there would be a budget to run ARPA-E and I would like to run it,” he told the committee.
ARPA-E runs a number of Energy Department loan and research programs, some of which, including those to fund the development of innovative energy technologies, are considered controversial.
In February, Trump proposed gutting the entire agency. It was the second time the administration proposed cutting it since Trump took office. But the administration said the proposed cuts shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign that officials don’t like the programs.
“This biggest reason for that is the accomplishments that these individual programs have made,” Mark Menezes, the undersecretary of Energy for science, told reporters at the time.
“You’ll see the reason is because all of the goals that [the Office of Management and Budget] has set, the cost reduction goals, these goals have been met or exceeded by most of these programs over the last four to five years,” he said.
While the House pushed to make major cuts to the funding of ARPA-E last year, senators fought to uphold funding the agency for fiscal 2018.
Support for ARPA-E spans both parties, and Republicans lawmakers as well as Democrats made that clear during Thursday’s questioning.
“This is an agency that deserves to be supported by the administration,” committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told Genatowski.
“You will be the one that will go to the President with that support for the agency, and I would like to think that you would aggressively advocate for a strong budget to the administration,” she added.