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Senate confirms Trump pick for energy commission seat

Senate confirms Trump pick for energy commission seat
© Greg Nash

The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm James Danly as a commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 

The chamber voted 52-40 to confirm President TrumpDonald John TrumpFox News president, top anchors advised to quarantine after coronavirus exposure: report Six notable moments from Trump and Biden's '60 Minutes' interviews Biden on attacks on mental fitness: Trump thought '9/11 attack was 7/11 attack' MORE’s pick for a Republican seat on the commission that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil.

"Mr. Danly has an impressive academic and professional background," said Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Murkowski says she will vote to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court on Monday MORE (R-Alaska), who spoke in the chamber in favor of the nomination. "This is the type of individual who knows his stuff, has a great grasp and a keen understanding of these energy related matters."

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Danly’s nomination was somewhat controversial, as, in a break from tradition, a Democrat was not nominated alongside him to fill a vacant Democratic seat on the five-member board. 

“Past presidents have sent nominations to fill both [seats] at the same time. I am deeply disappointed this has not happened this time. The politics involved in this town is outrageous,” said Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  Susan Collins and the American legacy Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-W.Va.), who nevertheless expressed support for Danly’s nomination, while speaking on the Senate floor. 

Prior to his confirmation, Danly was serving as FERC’s general counsel. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has raised a separate concern about Danly, saying he may have given bad ethics advice to FERC commissioners who had ties to the industries they regulate and requesting an investigation. 

“Issues have been raised related to inconsistent and inaccurate ethics advice provided by FERC’s Office of General Counsel regarding recusal obligations, waivers requirements, and implementation of the Administration’s ethics pledge,” Schumer wrote in a letter to the inspector general of the Department of Energy (DOE), which oversees  the FERC. 

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Schumer on the Senate Floor on Thursday criticized Danly saying, he "lacks the experience of past nominees and it seems his major qualification is ... deep ties to the energy industry."

Danly has told lawmakers he has “no role whatsoever in the provision of ethics advice,” which he said is solely the role of the agency’s Departmental Ethics Office, which he does not oversee.

Democrats had pressured the White House to pair Danly's nomination with a Democrat to fill another vacant seat on the commission.

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDemocrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives MORE (D-Wash.), who did not vote because she was working from home after a staffer in her office tested positive for the coronavirus, said in a statement that she would have voted against Danly's confirmation had she been able to attend the vote.

"We saw during the West Coast energy crisis how essential it is that the Commission is balanced and independent and ensures just and reasonable rates at all times," she said.