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Jennifer Granholm confirmed as energy secretary in bipartisan Senate vote

Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press on

Published in News & Features

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is officially headed back to political office.

Ten years after her second term as governor ended, Granholm on Thursday was confirmed as President Joe Biden's energy secretary, taking over as head of a multibillion-dollar agency that oversees national laboratories, the U.S. nuclear arsenal and plays a significant role in funding technological innovation and adoption of new technologies.

The U.S. Senate voted 64-35 to confirm Granholm. All 48 Democrats, including Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, both D-Mich., voted in favor of her nomination as did the two independent senators who caucus with the Democrats, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine. Fourteen Republicans also voted to confirm Granholm.

That her nomination didn't inspire more partisan animus was something of a surprise, given that Granholm, especially since leaving office in 2011, has been a Democratic strategist and analyst on CNN, where she regularly attacked Republican positions. But as if often the case, a number of Republicans voted to confirm believing the new president should be able to select his Cabinet advisers and acknowledging her experience as governor.

She is set to be the only Michigan member of Biden's Cabinet and is likely to be sworn in soon.

Speaking on her behalf on the Senate floor, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who served as Granholm's lottery commissioner when she was governor, said, "There is no question she is uniquely qualified to serve as secretary of energy... She knows how to deal with multi-faceted challenges and has a documented record of strong leadership."


As governor from 2003-2011, Granholm served at a particularly harsh time for the Michigan economy, as job losses skyrocketed during the last major recession before last year's outbreak of COVID-19. In Michigan, that was exacerbated by the threat that General Motors and Chrysler couldn't pay their bills, which led to their rescue in 2008-9 by President George W. Bush and then President Barack Obama.

During the recession and Obama's efforts to improve the economy — many of which were led by Biden as Obama's vice president — Granholm pushed to diversify Michigan's economy by encouraging clean energy initiatives and investment in electric vehicles, solar and wind technologies.

Her nomination easily cleared the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee earlier this month on a 13-4 vote with the chairman, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., saying, "I believe she's extremely well qualified. She has the leadership skills, the vision and compassion we need."

Biden's energy agenda has come under attack by some Republican, however, as he has moved to rejoin the Paris accords to cut greenhouse gases; stop new oil and gas leases on federal lands, and block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, arguing that those changes are needed to protect the environment and fight climate change.

Republicans argue they will hurt the economy and cost jobs. Biden and the Democrats claim they can create new, good-paying jobs by encouraging investment in new technologies. At her nomination hearing, Granholm said while she believes the U.S. must fight to reduce greenhouse gases, fossil fuels including coal, oil and gas, will have a role in the nation's energy portfolio for the foreseeable future.

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