U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has decided to name a one-time political foe, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, to head the country’s Department of Energy, a sprawling agency Perry once said should be abolished as wasteful.
Perry, a two-time Republican presidential candidate, called Trump a “cancer to conservatism” in the early stages of the party’s lengthy presidential nominating contest. But after dropping out of the race with scant voter support, the 66-year-old Perry endorsed Trump, saying the New York businessman wasn’t his first or second choice for president, but “is the people’s choice.”
Trump on Wednesday formally named Perry to lead the agency that has 100,000 employees, oversees the country’s nuclear-weapons arsenal and promotes development of green-energy projects.
“My administration is going to make sure we take advantage of our huge natural resource deposits to make America energy independent and create vast new wealth for our nation, and Ricky Perry is going to do an amazing job as the leader of that process,” Trump said in a statement.
Perry, a staunch conservative, could shift the Department of Energy away from its recent focus on renewable energy, which President Barack Obama has championed, and back toward oil and fossil fuels, which Perry promoted in oil-rich Texas. Perry has been a vocal skeptic of man-made climate change, but during his tenure as governor turned Texas into a major producer of wind-powered energy.
In 2011, during his first unsuccessful bid for the presidency, Perry committed a political gaffe that diminished his chances in his race against Trump.
During a debate, Perry called for elimination of three federal government agencies – the Departments of Commerce and Education, and then couldn’t remember the third, finally saying, “Oops.” He later said Energy was the third agency he wanted to abolish.
For most of Tuesday, Trump continued to work in New York to fill his Cabinet before his inauguration on January 20, when Obama leaves office after two terms in the White House.
Media reports late Tuesday said Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana, a former Navy SEAL, was believed to be the president-elect’s choice for Secretary of the Interior.
Zinke, described by The Washington Post as a lifelong hunter and fisherman, is a proponent of keeping public lands under federal ownership. That position would put him at odds with those in the Republican Party who favor privatization, or placing federal lands under the control of states.
Trump also has said he does not think public land should be placed under state control.
The Interior Department has more than 70,000 employees across the United States and oversees more than 20 percent of federal land, including national parks.
Trump also seemed likely to tap Ronna Romney McDaniel, the Michigan Republican Party chairwoman, as head of the Republican National Committee.
McDaniel is the niece of former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who had been among those being considered by Trump for the secretary of state post.
Later Tuesday, Trump flew to Wisconsin, the Midwestern state that he narrowly carried over Democrat Hillary Clinton in last month’s election, for another “thank you” rally for supporters.
It was minus 12 degrees Celsius when Trump landed in Wisconsin. Addressing those who turned out for his rally in the town of West Allis, he discussed many of the same themes as during his campaign.
He also took time to praise the Wisconsin politicians at the rally, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who represents a district in southern Wisconsin and who has had a rocky relationship with the president-elect.
When the crowd booed the mention of Ryan’s name, Trump rallied the crowd, saying Ryan was “like a fine wine. Every day that goes by I get to appreciate his genius more and more.”
A recount in the state confirmed that the billionaire real estate mogul won the election in the dairy state by a razor-thin margin – the first time a Republican presidential candidate has been victorious there since 1984.