The day after a tense, lengthy hearing with Gov. Rick Perry's three nominees to the University of Texas System Board of Regents, the Senate Nominations Committee on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve each one.
The ultimate confirmation of those nominees, Houston energy executive Jeff Hildebrand and McAllen municipal judge Ernest Aliseda and El Paso businessman and current regent Paul Foster, who was reappointed, now rests with the full Senate.
Perry's nominees to the UT System board have been closely watched because of ongoing controversy surrounding the current board, all of whom were appointed by the governor.
At least one senator has indicated a willingness to vote against them. During Monday's hearing, state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, told the nominees that if he were voting as a part of the committee, he would vote against them, because he did not want to be "a small part" of any effort to terminate University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers.
"I think you are on a mission, and I hope I'm wrong," said Whitmire, who is not a member of the committee. All three nominees denied any plan to terminate Powers or encourage him to leave.
Following Tuesday's vote, Senate Nominations Chairman Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, said his colleagues on the committee felt comfortable approving the nominees after a long and thorough hearing process.
“I feel at the end of the day, we need to move beyond the controversy,” Hegar said. “This is an entire system. This has to do with multiple institutions … and all we’re focused on is right across the street. Let’s move on.”
Asked if he was confident that the three nominees could work with Powers, Hegar said he was more interested in how the regents would work with the system as a whole.
“Whether they’re going to work with Bill Powers or presidents at the other eight other universities, to me that’s a whole other issue in a way,” Hegar said. “I don’t think that the nomination process should be about, for right or wrong, this whole discussion about one individual. … I’m more interested in making sure that the system works efficiently.”