The Senate confirmed President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump lawyers to Supreme Court: Jan. 6 committee 'will not be harmed by delay' Two House Democrats announce they won't seek reelection DiCaprio on climate change: 'Vote for people that are sane' 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 TillisSinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster Biden's court picks face fierce GOP opposition 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 SchumerChuck SchumerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Kelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Hundreds attend mass funeral for victims of Bronx apartment building fire 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 McConnellNAACP president presses senators on voting rights: 'You will decide who defines America' Sununu says he skipped Senate bid to avoid being 'roadblock' to Biden for two years 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act 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 ManchinSenate Democrats eye talking filibuster NAACP president presses senators on voting rights: 'You will decide who defines America' Schumer tees up showdown on voting rights, filibuster 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.