White House to Reappoint Republican to NRC

A political fight over a usually obscure commissioner's post reignited on Tuesday with the news that the White House will reappoint Republican Kristine Svinicki to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

President Obama announced his intent to renominate Svinicki, who was originally appointed by President Bush in March 2008, in a White House statement on Tuesday afternoon.

Now the spotlight turns back to two senior Democrats who both oppose her renomination: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who has her hands full with the bicameral negotiations over the transportation bill.

NRC, which is tasked with maintaining the safety of the nation's 104 nuclear power plants, has emerged as a political lightning rod in this administration ever since Obama appointed Gregory Jaczko, a former Reid aide, to the chairman's seat in 2009.

In order for Svinicki to return to NRC after her current term expires on June 30, Boxer must hold a hearing on her nomination and then the full Senate must vote to confirm her. There are exceptions, though. The committee waived the right to hold a hearing on the confirmation of Jaczko as chairman, according to Matt Dempsey, spokesman for Environment and Public Works ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla.

Boxer would not comment on Svinicki's renomination when asked about it on Tuesday. Inhofe expressed confidence that Reid and Boxer would not be able to block the confirmation process.

"The fact that the White House is renominating her and no one can question her capabilities and fairness, I think it will be very difficult for anyone to try to stop her," Inhofe said.

Reid and Boxer have said they oppose Svinicki's reappointment to the commission on the grounds that she misled Congress in a 2007 hearing about her work on the now-defunct nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But neither Boxer nor Reid have said they would take their allegations any further.

Reid is Washington's most vocal opponent of Yucca Mountain, and Obama campaigned on the promise to close down the repository when he first ran for the White House in 2008.

Republicans have charged that Reid is against Svinicki because she was one of the four members of the five-member commission who last year clashed with Jaczko, a former aide to Reid, over the chairman's leadership style. Reid's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Svinicki and the other four commissioners (two Democrats and one Republican all appointed by Obama) have complained to Congress about Jaczko's leadership and accused him of verbally abusing female employees at NRC. Jaszko has vehemently denied the allegations.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent Jaczko a letter on Monday pressing him on testimony he gave to the panel during a December hearing on NRC. The Republicans, led by Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., claim that Jackzo's testimony about his leadership style is misleading and contradictory to testimony given by the other commissioners.