WASHINGTON — Rick Perry ends his stint as energy secretary showered with praise by his boss and fellow Texas Republicans.
President Donald Trump turned to the former governor to open a Tuesday morning Cabinet meeting — Perry’s last — with a prayer in which Perry said all the officials in the room were there because they had been “ordained” to be there.
Trump lauded Perry, a former rival for the presidency who had described him in 2015 as a “cancer on conservatism.”
“You were a great governor of Texas, and you were a great secretary of energy,” Trump said.
On the House floor Monday night, eight Texas Republicans lavished praised on Perry for his tenure in state government and as energy secretary. They were led by freshman Rep. Chip Roy of Austin, a former Perry aide and ghostwriter of his 2010 anti-Washington campaign manifesto.
“There are few people in this world who cause you to want to charge the hill behind him and you know it will be for fighting a just cause,” Roy said, “but Governor Perry is one of those people.”
Perry submitted his resignation Oct. 17, and Dec. 1 is expected to be his last day. On Tuesday morning, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 16-4 to recommend confirmation of Trump’s pick to succeed him, Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette.
The tributes come even as the House impeachment inquiry has kicked up questions regarding Perry’s role in Ukraine policy and in Trump’s efforts to coerce that country’s leadership to deliver damaging evidence against Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
The energy secretary’s involvement with Ukraine was natural given the strategic importance of Ukraine’s energy sector and the pressure Russia has put on that country by repeatedly cutting off or hiking prices for natural gas.
But State Department officials with direct responsibility for Ukraine have testified that Perry was part of a troika that seemed to have hijacked relations with Ukraine.
Other of the “three amigos,” as they called themselves, were Gordon Sondland, a wealthy hotelier who donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural and now serves as ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, then an envoy to Ukraine for its peace negotiations.
Two of Perry’s political supporters secured a potentially lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from the Ukrainian government soon after he proposed one of the men as an adviser to the country’s new president.
Trump and the Texas Republicans made no mention of these questions.
Roy and his Texas colleagues recounted Perry’s rise from humble beginnings in Paint Creek, Texas. He became yell leader at Texas A&M, served as an Air Force pilot, then began moving up the ranks in politics, as a member of the Texas House, state agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and then the longest-serving governor in Texas history.
Roy recalled dealing with Hodgkin’s lymphoma during Perry’s run for president. “Governor Perry literally called me from a presidential debate to check on me while I was going through chemotherapy. And he stood with me and my family through it all. He is above all a good and decent man,” Roy said. “He exemplifies the Aggie values, selfless service, respect, loyalty, integrity and excellence in leadership.”
Roy ghostwrote Perry’s campaign book, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington.
With decades in state government, Perry crossed paths with every prominent Texas politician, and the lawmakers who joined Roy in paying tribute offered anecdotes.
Rep. Randy Weber of Friendswood served in the state House for four of Perry’s 14 years as governor.
“The great state of Texas and our nation are better for his service,” he said. “Thanks to his leadership, the United States is now the largest energy producer in the world, with a greatly expanded footprint in the international market.”
He recalled a story told by Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who ran against Perry for president.
“Santorum told of the regular frantic note-taking of candidates while they were on the debate stage, all except for Rick Perry,” Weber said. “Instead, Rick recounted, Perry only wrote one note. It was when Rick Santorum told about the health difficulties his beloved daughter, Bella, had faced from her birth.”
The note read: “Pray for Bella.”
Perry might have benefited from taking other notes. His candidacy was doomed after a 2011 GOP debate in which he couldn’t remember the third of three federal departments he wanted to dismantle. The object of that famous “oops” moment: the department he has led for nearly three years under Trump, once they patched things up from their bad blood in the 2016 campaign.
Rep. Brian Babin of Woodville noted that Perry had named him to the Lower Neches Valley Authority and said that his son, a Navy SEAL, was friends with Perry’s son-in-law, a fellow SEAL.
Thanks to Perry, Babin said, “Texas has become a mecca for out-of-state Americans looking for jobs and prosperity.”
Rep. Roger Williams of Austin noted that he had served as Texas’ secretary of state under Perry.
“Together, we sold our home state to America and the world by ushering in unprecedented economic growth and creating one of the strongest economies in the United States and, frankly, the world,” Williams said. “We would often tell prospects: Texas wasn’t open for business; Texas was wide open for business.”
As energy secretary, Perry paved “the way for greater economic growth and energy independence,” Williams said.
Like Roy, he recalled Perry’s personal touch in times of personal crisis, as when he was recovering after a gunman attacked GOP congressmen practicing for a charity baseball game. Williams said Perry called that night to “simply tell me, `I am with you, brother.’”
Rep. Michael Burgess of Pilot Point praised Perry for blocking a ban on incandescent light bulbs that he called “federal overreach,” inserted in 2007 legislation. Perry halted the regulation.
“Secretary Perry took steps to protect consumer choices and rolled back the mandates on light bulbs,” Burgess said.
Rep. Van Taylor of Plano, a Texas House member when Perry gave his farewell address as governor, noted that Perry had served his first three terms there as a Democrat, switching parties to run for agriculture commissioner.
“His comment was, `I probably made both parties happy,’ when he made that change, which I think was a pretty funny comment,” Taylor said. “It certainly brought down that House.”
Rep. Pete Olson of Sugar Land said: “He tried to make D.C. just like Texas.”
“On his watch, we started exporting American crude oil all over the world,” Olson said. “On Rick Perry’s watch, we have sent liquefied natural gas — we call that liquid `American freedom’ — all over the world,” helping allies in Eastern Europe and elsewhere “break the hold on energy that comes from Russia or OPEC.”
Rep. Jodey Arrington of Lubbock called Perry “our nation’s leading voice for energy dominance” and added: “My favorite Rick Perry quote: ‘If you want to make America great again, make it more like Texas.’”