Jason Hopkins on December 6, 2018
President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission survived his confirmation vote Thursday, returning a GOP majority to the powerful federal agency.
Bernard McNamee — Trump’s pick to become a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) — won confirmation by a 50-49 vote. The razor-thin margin fell along party lines, with Democrats sharply opposed to his nomination.
The vote brings an end to what became a contentious candidacy for McNamee. Democrats on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee initially took umbrage with his past work in the Department of Energy, where he led an unsuccessful effort to enact a bailout for failing coal and nuclear plants. However, things became worse for McNamee when a controversial video surfaced in late November.
In the footage, McNamee is heard trashing renewable energy, environmentalists and the concept of global warming.
“Renewables, when they come on and off, it screws up the whole the physics of the grid,” he said during a speech in February, during his time working for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. “The green movement is always talking about more government control because it’s the constant battle between liberty and tyranny.” McNamee also added that he tells his son to “deny it” if the subject of climate change comes up in his science class.
The video created a wave of backlash from Senate Democrats.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer railed against McNamee during a floor speech, every Democratic senator became opposed to his nomination, and a number of environmental groups voiced their opposition.
In a notable reversal, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin joined his party in voting against McNamee’s nomination Thursday. The vote was a pivotfrom in November, where he voted in favor of advancing McNamee through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Manchin, who is facing backlashfrom his party’s environmental base, cited the video as reason for his change of heart.
“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.
Nevertheless, the Republican Senate majority carried McNamee to victory Thursday. He will now join four other commissioners on the panel who oversee the interstate transmission of electricity, oil and natural gas. McNamee, a Republican, will also return a GOP majority to FERC. The 5-member regulatory panel had previously been under a 2-2 partisan split after former Republican Commissioner Robert Powelson left for a job in the private sector.
Not only will a GOP majority aid the administration in its energy agenda, but McNamee is viewed as much more friendly toward the president’s philosophy on fossil fuels.
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