SEN. JEFF BINGAMAN (D-N.M.): OK. Why don't we get started?
The committee meets this morning to consider the nomination of Do Steven Chu to be the secretary of energy. President-elect Obama will not officially nominate Dr. Chu until the new president is sworn in himself this next Tuesday.
It's customary, however, for the senate to confirm non- controversial cabinet nominations at the beginning of a new administration by unanimous consent without first referring them to committee. And it's customary to do so immediately following the inaugural ceremony.
We extended this courtesy to seven of President Bush's nominees eight years ago and to some of President Clinton's nominees 16 years ago.
In keeping with the past practices here in the committee, I've scheduled today's hearing on Dr. Chu's nomination and scheduled another hearing on Thursday on Senator Salazar's nomination in order to give members an opportunity to ask questions to the nominees and consider the nominations prior to the inauguration.
Unless there's serious opposition to one or both of the nominees, and I'm certainly not aware of any; it's my home that the committee might also be able to take a vote on the nominations later this week as well.
Dr. Chu's nomination comes in a pivotal time in the department's history. The department faces the daunting challenges of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels, developing new sources of clean energy, finding ways to capture and store carbon emissions, modernizing our electric grid and developing more efficient energy technology.
So, at the same time, the department must fulfill its traditional mission of maintaining our nuclear deterrents, cleaning up the environmental legacy of the Cold War, and advancing the frontiers of scientific discovery and technological innovation.
We're very fortunate to have a nominee of Dr. Chu's high caliber to take on these responsibilities. He will bring to the job the keen scientific mind of a physicist and Nobel laureate, the experience and understanding of the Department of Energy of a national laboratory director, and the insight and vision needed to forge an energy policy for the 21st century.
President-elect Obama has made an excellent choice in nominating Dr. Chu to be the secretary of energy.
I strongly support his nomination. As I have said, I hope the committee will approve this nomination later this week and that the full senate will confirm him for this position next Tuesday.
Let me call on Sen. Murkowski to make any statements she would like to at this point.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-ALASKA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Dr. Chu, welcome. Good morning, and thank you for your willingness to serve in this capacity this morning.
I would just like to note as we begin, when we think about the role that the Department of Energy plays and their mission to advance the nation's energy security, promoting scientific and technological innovation, ensure the environmental clean-up of the national nuclear weapons conflicts, the tasks that are before the Department of Energy are clearly not easy tasks.
The astronomer Carl Sagan once observed that we live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
Now, well, that may be true of some people. It's certainly is not the case with you, Dr. Chu, a Nobel prize-winning physicist.
I think it's probably fair to say that you are uniquely poised in your ability to bring with you the background that relates to science and the technology.
As the director of the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Dr. Chu brings the distinguished record of scientific achievement to the position of Energy secretary.
Dr. Chu, I know that you are keenly aware of the magnitude of the position for which you're being considered. I commend you for agreeing to undertake the challenge.
I appreciate the opportunity that we had to discuss a few of the issues that you will be facing when we met last week and I look forward to your comments this morning as you elaborate even further.
The senators that join this committee do so because of the importance of these issues to their constituents as well as to the nation as a whole.
I encouraged you to be mindful of our intense interest in the decisions that you will be making. I look for your commitment if confirmed which I fully expect that will happen here -- the commitments to work closely with each of us as you consider and develop the Department of Energy policies.
Again, I thank you for your willingness to serve the President- elect and our country, and I do look forward to your comments this morning.
BINGAMAN: Thank you, Senator Murkowski.
I'll note that one of our colleagues is here.
Obviously, Dr. Chu is a constituent of Senator Feinstein. And I believe she is here to make a short statement to the committee and we welcome her.
Go right ahead.