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Senate confirms Trump’s controversial energy pick

The Senate confirmed President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing MORE’s pick for a key energy agency Thursday over Democrats' objections that he is too biased for the job.

The 50-49 vote along party lines means Bernard McNamee, a Republican and former high-ranking political official at the Energy Department under Trump, can take his spot on the five-person Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

GOP Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate hears from Biden's high-profile judicial nominees for first time Senate Democrats take aim at 'true lender' interest rate rule Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign MORE (N.C.) was absent from the floor vote.

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McNamee’s history in the Trump administration and working for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation have raised significant objections from Democrats that he can’t live up to the expectation that FERC commissioners should be independent and neutral when it comes to energy fuel sources.

He has been an outspoken advocate of fossil fuels, harshly criticized renewable energy and cast doubt on the science of climate change, including in a video of a speech that surfaced in recent weeks. McNamee also served a key role in pushing the Trump administration’s ongoing attempts to bail out coal and nuclear power plants.

“He has lied about how the renewable energies impact the electric grid. He has called support for clean energy ‘organized propaganda,’ and pitched the debate between fossil fuels and renewables in his words as a clash between liberty and tyranny," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs MORE (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Thursday before the vote. "My Republican friends, these words sound absurd.”

“At a time when average Americans are feeling the devastating effects of climate change right now, we should not elevate someone so biased in favor of fossil fuels that caused these problems in the first place,” he added.

To Republicans, McNamee is a highly qualified candidate who knows how to keep his personal opinions in check.

“His obvious qualifications and his commitment to fairness and impartiality earned him a bipartisan vote out of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last month with a favorable recommendation,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAssaults on Roe v Wade increasing Trump spokesman says defeating Cheney a top priority Biden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push MORE (R-Ky.) “I hope the same common sense will prevail today so we can move this nominee forward with the bipartisan vote he well deserves.”

That bipartisan committee vote was due to Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden's elitist work-family policy won't work for most families The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders MORE (D-W.Va.), who told McNamee in his confirmation hearing that he supports his past statements on fossil fuels and coal.

But Manchin voted against his confirmation due to the video, first published by Utility Dive, and McNamee’s apparent doubt of climate change science.

“After viewing video footage, which I had not previously seen, where Bernard McNamee outright denies the impact that humans are having on our climate, I can no longer support his nomination to be a FERC commissioner,” Manchin said in a statement Wednesday, after voting against a procedural motion to move forward on the confirmation.

“Climate change is real, humans have made a significant impact, and we have the responsibility and capability to address it urgently,” Manchin said.