U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)
*This story will be updated.
WASHINGTON — When it comes to President Donald Trump’s White House, describing U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., as a critic is a bit of an understatement.
The Keystone State’s senior United States senator was in the vanguard of calling for Trump’s impeachment. And on Twitter on Tuesday, he hammered Trump on Twitter for “pursuing a bogus conspiracy theory” about debunked Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.
The President claims the Democrats are pursuing a witch hunt, but he and his supporters are relentlessly propagating a bogus conspiracy theory placing blame on Ukraine in the name of preserving the security interests of not the U.S., but of Russia. https://t.co/Pz90KxUrj3
— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) December 2, 2019
But on Monday, Casey put acrimony and impeachment politics aside, voting with the majority of his colleagues to confirm the nomination of Dan Brouillette as the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. He succeeds former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who stepped down Sunday.
Casey was among the 70 senators who voted to confirm Brouillette, who has served as deputy secretary of the department since August 2017. Fifteen senators voted against the nomination, while fifteen were absent, including U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who was listed as “not voting” on a Senate roll call.
Toomey missed the vote because of a pre-existing “family commitment,” his office said in a statement. But the Lehigh Valley Republican “supports Secretary Brouillette and voted to advance his nomination just before Thanksgiving.”
Casey’s office could not immediately be reached for comment for this story.
Brouillette’s nomination faced stiff opposition from Nevada’s two senators, Democrats Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, who voted against his nomination, pointing to the department’s record in the Silver State under the leadership of Perry and Brouillette.
“I voted against Mr. Brouillette to be Energy Secretary because of my many concerns with how the Department of Energy has violated Nevada’s trust,” Rosen said in a statement Monday.
Under Perry and Brouillette’s leadership, the department shipped plutonium to Nevada without consent, and continues to pursue a plan to dump radioactive waste from nuclear power plants at the Yucca Mountain site north of Las Vegas, she said.
A department spokesperson declined to directly respond to the senator’s comments.
Cortez Masto — a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — opposed the nomination for similar reasons.
“My concern is how we as the state of Nevada trust the Department of Energy moving forward,” she said during a committee hearing on Brouillette’s nomination last month. “They have tarnished and broken … our commitment to us.”
Cortez Masto opposed Brouillette’s 2017 nomination to be deputy secretary of the department over concerns about his views on nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain — an issue she pressed during the November confirmation hearing.
Brouillette responded by shifting responsibility for the decision to the legislative branch.
“As you well know, I’m obligated to follow the law of the land,” he said — but he also noted he could not fund the plan without congressional approval.
Before becoming deputy secretary at the Department of Energy, Brouillette worked in policy at a financial services organization and at Ford Motor Company. A U.S. Army veteran, he was also chief of staff at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and worked in other government positions — including an earlier stint at the Department of Energy. Brouillette is a graduate of the University of Maryland; he and his wife have nine children.
Perry, who promoted “freedom gas” and other fossil fuels during his tenure, announced he was stepping down in October. The news came amidst his refusal to comply with a House subpoena to answer questions about his involvement in decisions to withhold foreign aid to Ukraine, the subject of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Perry — one of the so-called “three amigos” reportedly responsible for the administration’s Ukraine policy — has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
But Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, took to the floor Monday to chastise him — and Brouillette — for their silence on the matter.
“This is the head of the Energy Department, and it looks like he was right in the center of the Trump corruption scheme in Ukraine,” Wyden said before the vote. Brouillette, he added, wasn’t willing to say anything “substantive” about Perry’s activities in Ukraine during the confirmation process. I don’t think Perry acted “all by his lonesome,” Wyden said.
Capital-Star Editor John L. Micek contributed to this story.
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