The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm two of President Obama’s nominees to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Norman Bay was confirmed on a 52-45 vote despite criticisms from Republicans and pro-fossil fuel Democrats.
The Senate also voted 90-7 to confirm Cheryl LaFleur, who was acting chairwoman of FERC.
As part of a deal to get both nominees through, the administration has agreed to keep LaFleur on as chairwoman for nine months so that Bay can learn from her and then take over as chairman. Bay has been serving as director of enforcement at FERC.
“This man does not have the background, the qualifications and certainty experience to take on this important role,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said. “The president is asking the Senate to demote Cheryl LaFleur, demote her from being Chairman. She is a highly qualified woman, a Democrat with over 25 years of experience in energy, four years of experience as a Commissioner of FERC — in order to promote an unqualified man.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) praised Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) for negotiating the deal with the administration, but ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) disagreed, saying talk of a good deal isn’t actually a good deal.
“A weird drama has played out. … Many are concerned that the wrong person is set to take over and FERC is at risk of losing objectivity,” Murkowski said. “FERC is just too important a commission for appointees to be handled like this.”
Murkowski voted for LaFleur's nomination but not Bay's.
FERC oversees U.S. energy sectors, such as interstate natural gas pipelines and the sale of electricity across state lines.
The Senate also confirmed the following nominations by voice-vote:
- James Nealon to be U.S. ambassador to Honduras.
- Robert Wood to be U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament.
- Paul Jaenichen to be Administrator of the Maritime Administration.