By Ben Geman - 06/13/12 04:08 PM EDT
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko is on his way out the door, but Capitol Hill lawmakers aren’t done with battles over his controversial tenure atop the agency.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), at a Senate hearing to vet Jaczko’s replacement, defended the outgoing chairman against the various attacks over his management and behavior that have come from other NRC members and GOP lawmakers.
Defenders of Jaczko — a Democrat who is a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — say the attacks have stemmed from opposition to his nuclear safety efforts.
“Those personal attacks were a smokescreen for a philosophical divide that exists within the NRC,” Sanders, a critic of nuclear power, said Wednesday. “I think he was subject to McCarthyite tactics, and I hope we don’t see a repeat of that.”
But Jaczko came under fresh attack from several GOP members of the committee, which met Wednesday to consider Allison Macfarlane, President Obama’s nominee to replace Jaczko.
Jaczko announced his resignation in May but will remain with the agency until the Senate confirms his replacement.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) on Wednesday called Jaczko’s tenure a “dark period” at the NRC.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top GOP member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, also took aim at Jaczko.
“Given the numerous reports of Chairman Jaczko's failed leadership at the NRC, it was right of him to resign last month. By removing himself as a distraction to the agency, the Commission can once again focus on its mission of nuclear safety,” Inhofe said at the hearing.
Jaczko has faced allegations including claims that he withheld information from fellow commissioners and has been verbally abusive, among other complaints.
A 2011 inspector general report alleged that Jaczko controls information given to other commissioners, though the report found that the chairman broke no law. The report also included claims from unnamed staff members that Jaczko often lost his temper, berating employees.
Jaczko has strongly denied the allegations that he verbally abused NRC staff, taking particular umbrage to claims that he targeted women.