Chu confirmed unanimously as Energy Secretary

One of the best cabinet picks in recent memory takes his job today (see Top 5 reasons Chu is a great energy pick — #1: “It’s not guaranteed we have a solution for coal”).

As E&E News PM (subs req’d) reports:

The Senate unanimously confirmed seven of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet picks today, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, but postponed debate on his nominees to lead the State Department, U.S. EPA and White House Council on Environmental Quality.

In a post-inauguration session, the Senate quickly approved Chu, Salazar, Vilsack, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.

A few nominations have hitches:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also scheduled a 3 p.m. roll call vote for tomorrow on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Obama’s nominee to be secretary of the State Department. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn objected earlier today to Reid’s plan for unanimous consent approval on Clinton, citing concerns over former President Bill Clinton’s fundraising activities.

“This is not an effort to scuttle or block the nomination, but a legitimate policy difference,” Cornyn spokesman Kevin McLaughlin told The New York Times. “Senator Cornyn’s goal is to create transparency on all levels of government.”

The Senate did not take up two other Obama nominations: Lisa Jackson to be the next EPA administrator and Nancy Sutley to be the chairwoman of the White House CEQ. Both nominees did not face significant scrutiny during their confirmation hearings last week, leaving several Senate Republican and Democratic leadership aides today searching for answers about who was holding up the two Obama environmental picks.

“We confirmed who we could today,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said in an e-mail.

Andrew Wheeler, Republican staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) supports both nominees and isn’t sure who raised the objection to Jackson and Sutley’s confirmations, though he said the objection to Sutley being confirmed today was because her position is not Cabinet-level.