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Senate Clears Pena as New Energy Chief

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Federico Pena won Senate confirmation Wednesday as Energy secretary, leaving only two Cabinet nominees, Alexis M. Herman at Labor and Anthony Lake at the CIA, still to be approved.

The Senate cleared Pena’s nomination by a 99-1 vote with only Sen. Rod Grams (R-Minn.) lining up against the former Transportation secretary and onetime mayor of Denver.

While Pena had wide support, the nomination had been stalled for nearly a month because of some senators’ anger at the White House over its opposition to building a centralized nuclear waste storage facility in Nevada.

Grams, who has pushed legislation to shut down the Energy Department altogether, said Pena had not shown enough leadership in finding ways to dispose of the tons of used reactor fuel now kept at civilian power plants around the country.

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But other Republicans joined Democrats in calling Pena highly qualified for the Cabinet post, although he has little background in the energy field. Pena, 49, was Transportation secretary during Clinton’s first term.

Sen. Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska) had held up Pena’s nomination for several weeks in an attempt to get the administration to bend on its opposition to the Nevada waste site. He said the delay was not meant to reflect on Pena’s qualifications, but to focus White House attention on the radioactive waste issue.


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