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 — A Louisiana native is one step closer to taking a powerful role in President Donald Trump's cabinet.

Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, originally of Paincourtville, is in line to head the Department of Energy by the end of the year. On Thursday, he had his first confirmation hearing for the top post.

Brouillette, a military veteran who got his start in politics working for then-Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin, has received Senate confirmation twice and his latest is expected to move through with little resistance.

“I’m proud to have been a small part of the incredible success we have seen in American energy,” Brouillette said. “If I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed, I will work earnestly to address the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow.”

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called Brouillette an “obvious choice” to replace outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry and said she hopes to advance the nomination “as rapidly as possible.”

If all goes as anticipated, Brouillette would become the highest-ranking Louisiana native in the federal government.

“This is the American dream: Someone who grew up in small town Louisiana, worked their butt off and rose up to be appointed to the president’s cabinet," said U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, a Baton Rouge Republican who has worked closely with Brouillette over the years.

Brouillette currently lives in Texas, so his nomination identifies him as a Texas nominee, but both U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, appeared at Thursday's hearing to claim him as a Louisiana native.

The hearing was cordial with Brouillette fielding questions about nuclear waste, energy independence and the future of coal, among a broad range of other topics. As second-in-command at the Energy Department, he’s been tasked with managing the agency’s day-to-day operations.

“It is no surprise as a Louisiana native that he understands the importance of U.S. (liquefied natural gas) exports, creating jobs in the United States and lowering emissions abroad,” said Cassidy, who gave the lead introduction at the hearing. “Dan is committed to innovation and ensuring that our national labs are at the forefront of developing groundbreaking technologies.”

Perry, who has led the Energy Department since Trump took office in 2017, has said he plans to leave the administration in December.

“We would like to see a seamless transition there,” Murkowski said.

Tauzin, who represented Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District for more than two decades until his retirement in 2005, hired Brouillette as an intern in the early 1990s at the recommendation of Louisiana political force Ted Jones, who passed away earlier this year. Within six months, Tauzin said, he had added Brouillette to his full-time staff.

“He was just incredible,” Tauzin said. “There were other people trying to hire him away from us when they realized what a gem he was.”

Brouillette worked his way up to chief of staff in Tauzin’s office and eventually became chief of staff to the powerful U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee.

“To be chief of staff of that committee is remarkable,” Tauzin said. “He’s just a great people person. He’s incredibly bright and incredibly hard working but he compliments that with such humility.”

One of the things that those who know will quickly point out: Brouillette and his wife, Adrienne, have nine children — they were all seated in the row behind him during Thursday’s hearing. Each of the children has been home-schooled.

Tauzin said he remembers when he was seeking cancer treatment at Johns Hopkins after leaving office, the Brouillette children sent him a giant get well card with prayers written inside.

“They’re so beautiful,” he said.

Graves recalled his experience working with Brouillette in several roles over the years, dating back to Tauzin’s office. Graves said Brouillette was adept at keeping up with the often hectic pace in the House that can quickly pivot from health care to education to environmental issues.

“It’s a place that often very quickly responds to public opinion and issues du jour,” Graves said. “One thing about Dan that I remember very distinctly about working with him: He never gets excited.

“He’s very principled, very grounded and very level-headed — the kind of person you want around in a crisis,” Graves said. “Every time I think of him it’s just how collected he is and how principled he is.”

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