Maria Robinson was nominated by President Biden to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Energy (Office of Electricity) within the Department of Energy on October 4th, 2021. Robinson is an adopted Korean-American who was elected to the Massachusetts State House in 2018, and went on to win reelection in 2020. Prior to her time in the Legislature, Robinson worked in numerous energy-related positions and led programs for Advance Energy Economy and the Massachusetts Clean Power Plan campaign, in addition to working as a renewable energy consultant for Navigant Consulting.
Robinson’s nomination did not garner much press coverage, primarily local Massachusetts papers, but it was received well from stakeholders in the energy industry as well as Democrats supporting Robinson’s unique identity in the nomination process.
Nevertheless, Robinson’s nomination was drawn out as procedural rules required the nomination be reintroduced after the Senate did not act in 2021. When hearings finally came in February 2022, Republican Senator James Lankford accused Robinson of being “publicly against American energy” and attributed pro-Russian sentiments to Robinson because of a Russian oil shipment to Boston. Despite these attacks, the hearings mainly focused on the nation’s energy grid reliability. In a Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources confirmation hearing on March 8th, 2022, Robinson’s nomination was delayed further after the Democrats lost the quorum to push Robinson through the committee (the previous four nominees were all voted on that day). Senator John Barrasso said he planned to oppose Robinson in committee because of “her focus on renewable energy,” which doomed any hopes of Robinson getting through without all required Democratic votes that day.
On May 3rd, 2022, the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources failed to report Robinson out favorably due to a 10-10 split along party lines. The next day, Senator Mike Lee questioned Energy Secretary Granholm in a budget hearing and tried to get Granholm to say on the record that Robinson’s nomination should be withdrawn. Secretary Granholm remained supportive of Maria Robinson’s nomination. Despite this continued support, Robinson remained in committee as Democrats failed to obtain enough in-person votes to push her out of committee (Senate rules ascribe more power to in-person votes).
On June 8th, 2022, President Biden withdrew Maria Robinson’s nomination – nearly 250 days after her initial introduction to the Senate. Robinson had previously given up her seat in the MA State Legislature to pursue this nomination and her seat has been all but redistricted out of existence.
Initial Reaction to Nomination
Robinson's Hearing Featured Baseless Attacks
President Biden Withdrew Robinson's Nomination