Secretary of Energy Rick Perry once performed the Cha Cha and the Quickstep on the television show Dancing with the Stars. So it’s no surprise that the former Texas governor displayed some careful footwork this week before three congressional panels examining the Trump administration’s 2018 budget request for the Department of Energy (DOE). The president has called for deep cuts to science and technology programs at the $30 billion agency, evoking harsh criticism from lawmakers across the political spectrum.
In the face of that opposition, Perry this week repeatedly pirouetted away from defending the spending request. He noted that it was finalized, without his input, before he took office in early March. And he signaled that he recognizes Congress is the lead partner in the annual budgetary dance, because it holds the purse strings. “We have some work to do on this budget, I know that,” he told members of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on 21 June, adding that he “looked forward” to working with lawmakers to address their concerns about spending levels. (Perry also met with House of Representatives appropriators on 20 June, and on 22 June with a Senate energy panel that oversees DOE programs.)
At the same time, Perry struck a defiant pose when Democrats pressed him on his views of climate change. “My perspective is that it is not settled science,” he told the Senate spending panel, arguing that the jury is still out on whether carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are driving global warming.