Eleven of the 48 U.S. senators who caucus with the Democrats cast yes votes alongside Senate Republicans on Thursday for Perry to head the department that controls our nuclear arsenal. Perry, who will never escape the fact that he once forgot the name of the Department of Energy before stating he would like to abolish it, was confirmed by a vote of 61-37.
Perry is far from the first Trump-appointed cabinet nominee to receive some Democratic support. The vast majority of Democratic senators voted to approve retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to be Trump’s Defense secretary, Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations and Elaine Chao as Secretary of Labor. But those nominees were hardly as controversial as Perry, who but has no science background—bizarre for a man who is supposed to control 17 national laboratories. The DOE’s past two leaders were a nuclear physicist and a Nobel laureate. Perry, who has a bachelors degree in animal science, got Cs, Ds and Fs in his college science courses. Perry also has not fully embraced the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. As governor of Texas, he supported schools that taught creationist theory alongside evolution.
These caveats were controversial enough for most Democrats to vote against Perry, but not everyone—mostly centrist figures like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill cast yes votes on Thursday (you can see the full list here). But perhaps they were just looking at things through rose-colored glasses. After all, when you have a fossil fuel ally in charge of the EPA; an anti-public school crusader in charge of the Department of Education; and an Attorney General who lied about his contacts with Russia; maybe Rick Perry at DOE’s helm doesn’t seem so bad.