Boxer told National Journal last week that she plans to hold a hearing on both nominees "soon after" the Memorial Day recess. But with time running out on Svinicki's term and both nominations still needing floor votes, sources close to the negotiations say that Boxer will likely hold the hearing on June 12, 13, or 14. Boxer's office would not confirm those dates.
Hearings are usually posted on the committee's website a week in advance, so an official announcement from Boxer's office can be expected next week, sources said.
"I think that's when Senator Boxer was saying she'd like to have it," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "We agree with the president that there should be no break in service for Svinicki's seat," he added, referring to the administration's repeated remarks that a fully functioning NRC is necessary at such a crucial time for the nuclear industry. The agency has been most recently dealing with licensing the first new reactors in decades and implementing reforms based on lessons learned from last year's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan.
The Senate's ongoing deliberations about the nominations was a major reason the House Energy and Commerce Committee shelved a hearing on the NRC that had been planned for Thursday. Leaders of the House panel had planned to use the hearing to pressure the White House to replace Jaczko and renominate Svinicki, but in the wake of Jaczko's announcement and swift appointment of a successor, they decided it was best not to rock the boat when "the ship is sailing smoothly," a lobbyist with close ties to House GOP leadership told National Journal.
Jaczko's leadership, which was challenged by the other four commissioners late last year, could still be an issue at the confirmation hearing for Macfarlane and Svinicki, however. The Office of the Inspector General at the NRC has been investigating the agency's management and a report is expected at any time, possibly before the Senate hearings.
The report will specifically delve into the leadership controversy at the agency late last year, when the other four commissioners complained to the White House that the chairman has bullied staff, verbally abused women, and hindered communications at the agency. An IG report out last June already had criticized Jaczko for not being "forthcoming" with his fellow commissioners leading up to the shutdown of the controversial nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
The confirmation hearing for Svinicki and Macfarlane is also likely to delve into Yucca Mountain on two other fronts. Reid and Boxer have both charged that Svinicki misled Congress in a 2007 hearing about her work on the now-defunct waste repository, and the committee's Democrats are expected to question her record on nuclear safety.