President Donald Trump's pick to be the next deputy secretary of energy cruised through a nomination hearing Wednesday afternoon, facing little resistance while fielding questions largely focused on energy production, research and development and the novel coronavirus.
U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski at the end of the hourslong hearing said she looked forward to advancing Mark Menezes' nomination "to the full floor for confirmation very rapidly."
Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, further said she hopes the Senate will afford Menezes "strong, bipartisan support." Sens. Joe Manchin, the ranking member from West Virginia, and Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, offered similar comments of support Wednesday, describing Menezes as well qualified.
Trump nominated Menezes to be the deputy secretary of energy – the second in command at the Department of Energy – earlier this year. The multidiscipline department oversees the Savannah River Site, a nuclear-waste-and-weapons reserve south of Aiken and near New Ellenton.
The deputy secretary position is vacant following Dan Brouillette's confirmation as secretary of energy. Brouillette succeeded Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who abruptly left the Energy Department's top spot at the end of 2019.
Brouillette months ago effectively deputized Menezes, affording him the authority to direct all operations at the department, save for its weapons-and-nonproliferation arm, the National Nuclear Security Administration.
The transfer of power, the energy secretary reasoned in a January message, would ensure continued "operational effectiveness."
In a February tweet, Brouillette urged lawmakers to support Menezes' nomination: "I encourage the U.S. Senate to expeditiously confirm him," Brouillette wrote. "I look forward to continuing to serve alongside my friend and colleague to advance U.S. energy independence and security."
Menezes, a Louisiana State University graduate, has previously served as an executive with Berkshire Hathaway Energy and as a vice president and associate general counsel for American Electric Power, one of the largest electric energy companies in the U.S. Menezes, like Brouillette, has Hill experience.