Energy Secretary Rick Perry held court in the White House briefing room for nearly 40 minutes on Tuesday, delivering an extended riff on energy policy as Senate Republican leaders announced they were delaying a vote on their health care bill.
Perry’s remarks made for a bizarre split-screen moment, underscoring the disconnect between the policy themes selected by the White House – this week’s focus is energy – and the news cycle, which this week has been dominated by the health care bill.
The White House has touted a series of policy-themed weeks over the last month, organizing events on everything from infrastructure to workforce development. They have largely been overshadowed by other major news events, including the expanding Russia investigation and Trump’s tweets.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders inched closer to the podium as Perry continued to take questions from the press corps on everything from U.S.-India energy relations, nuclear power and French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to invite Trump to France for Bastille Day.
Asked whether the potential trip to France is an opportunity to start new international climate talks, Perry said, “I would always look at an invitation to a party as a good thing.” He added that he has always thought the French “were a little bit different – that’s in a good way.”
Pressed about his stance on climate change, Perry said, “The climate is changing, man is having an impact on it,” adding later, “How much effect is what’s at debate here.”
Perry said he wants to have an “intellectual conversation” about what to do about climate change.
“I don’t think whether anybody will question whether Secretary Perry is a high-energy guy,” Sanders deadpanned after Perry forfeited the podium.