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Senate confirms Trump’s controversial energy pick

The Senate confirmed President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoaquín Castro: Trump would be 'in court right now' if he weren't the president or 'privileged' Trump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference Comey reveals new details on Russia probe during House testimony 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 TillisTrump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform Overnight Energy: Senate confirms controversial energy pick | EPA plans rollback of Obama coal emissions rule | GOP donor gave Pruitt K for legal defense Senate confirms Trump’s controversial energy pick MORE (N.C.) was absent from the floor vote.

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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerPush to pay congressional interns an hour gains traction with progressives House approves two-week spending measure to avert shutdown Manchin’s likely senior role on key energy panel rankles progressives 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 McConnellTrump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference Sunday shows preview: Trade talks, Cohen sentencing memo take center stage Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform 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 ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSchumer to Trump: Future infrastructure bill must combat climate change Overnight Energy: Senate confirms controversial energy pick | EPA plans rollback of Obama coal emissions rule | GOP donor gave Pruitt K for legal defense Senate confirms Trump’s controversial energy pick 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.