Trump Energy Secretary

FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2019, file photo Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette is interviewed on stage at the World Energy Congress in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. President Donald Trump has nominated Brouillette to replace Rick Perry in the top job at the Energy Department. Trump tweets that Brouillette’s experience in that area is “unparalleled” and calls him a “total professional.” (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File)

WASHINGTON — An Assumption Parish native has been confirmed as the new head of the powerful U.S. Department of Energy.

The U.S. Senate voted 70-15 Monday in favor of Dan Brouillette — a nomination that sailed through the GOP-controlled chamber with little opposition from Democrats, despite partisan tension in the Capitol as the Democrat-controlled House continues its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Brouillette, who grew up in Paincourtville, replaces former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the president's cabinet. Brouillette is now the highest-ranking member of the Trump administration to have Louisiana roots.

Brouillette, 57, had been Perry's No. 2 at the Department of Energy, overseeing much of the agency's day-to-day operations.

"That, along with nine kids, keeps me pretty busy," he quipped during a recent confirmation hearing, as his wife and children sat behind him.

Brouillette, a military veteran who got his start in politics working for then-Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin, had previously received Senate confirmation twice and his latest was moved through with little resistance, as expected.

Brouillette currently lives in Texas, so his nomination identifies him as a Texas nominee; nevertheless, Louisiana U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and John Kennnedy, R-Madisonville, had been vocal advocates of the appointment. 

“Dan Brouillette understands that sound energy policy benefits energy workers, creates jobs and furthers America’s goal of energy dominance," Cassidy said. "He will serve our country well as secretary. Louisiana is fortunate to have one of ours in this position."

Kennedy called him a "rock star."

"He’s served with distinction as the deputy secretary of energy, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving to lead the Department of Energy,” Kennedy said. “He exercises power intelligently, not emotionally, and he will be extraordinary in this new role.”

In addition to oversight and promotion of domestic energy, including oil and gas that Louisiana produces, the Energy Department is responsible for 17 national scientific research labs and plays a critical role in energy technology and nuclear security. It has a $30 billion annual budget and thousands of employees and contractors.

Perry, who had led the Energy Department since Trump took office in 2017, stepped down Sunday. Perry now faces questions about his involvement in the Ukraine scandal, though there is no evidence of wrongdoing on his part and he has said the impeachment inquiry was unrelated to his decision to step down.

Brouillette, during his confirmation hearing, faced several questions about Perry's involvement in the Ukraine matter. Brouillette said he didn't know about it and wasn't involved.

U.S. Sen. Rob Wyden, D-Oregon, urged the Senate to delay Brouillette’s confirmation until further review of Perry and Ukraine. Perry has ignored a subpoena to testify before Congress.

Wyden said Brouillette “failed to provide substantive answers to key questions.”

“(Energy) will still go forward if the Senate takes the time to require there be substantive answers,” Wyden said, noting that Brouillette became acting secretary this week after Perry left.

But other Democrats praised Brouillette. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, urged his fellow Democrats to put politics aside and support the nomination. 

“He’s up to this enormous task. He’s a good man," Manchin said. "He’s up to the job and understands the job.”

Ultimately, 22 Democrats voted for Brouillette, while just 15 from the party voted against. Eight senators didn't vote.

Email Elizabeth Crisp at ecrisp@theadvocate.com and follow on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.