End of the Road for FERC Nominee?

Rep.-elect Tim Scott, R-S.C.., speaks during news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)  
National Journal
Alex Brown
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Alex Brown
Sept. 26, 2013, 7:19 a.m.

Bar­ring some un­usu­al man­euv­er­ing by Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, Ron Binz’s chances of head­ing the Fed­er­al En­ergy Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion may be all but gone.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., an­nounced his op­pos­i­tion to Binz on Thursday morn­ing, mean­ing all 10 Re­pub­lic­ans on the Sen­ate’s En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee—along with Demo­crat­ic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Vir­gin­ia—re­portedly stand against his con­firm­a­tion. That means the 22-mem­ber pan­el will not be able to re­com­mend him for a full Sen­ate vote.

A spokes­man for com­mit­tee chair­man Ron Wyden, D-Ore., signaled the White House may be mov­ing in a new dir­ec­tion. “The com­mit­tee is aware that oth­er can­did­ates are be­ing con­sidered to lead the FERC,” Keith Chu said.

Binz’s con­firm­a­tion pro­spects had been tenu­ous fol­low­ing a gruel­ing hear­ing be­fore the com­mit­tee earli­er this month. Manchin and Sen. Rob Port­man, R-Ohio, have said Binz re­vealed a bi­as to­ward re­new­able fuels over coal dur­ing his time as head of the Col­or­ado reg­u­lat­ory au­thor­ity, but Binz has denied he is anti-coal.

Spec­u­la­tion in­tens­i­fied Wed­nes­day when Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said she had heard Binz was with­draw­ing his name. Not so, ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion. “Mr. Binz has not with­drawn his nom­in­a­tion,” said FERC spokes­wo­man Mary O’Driscoll.

Al­though Binz may not be able to earn the com­mit­tee’s ma­jor­ity sup­port, a spokes­man for Wyden said the pan­el would still hold a vote on re­com­mend­ing him to the full Sen­ate.

What re­mains to be seen is if Re­id will put Binz’s con­firm­a­tion be­fore the full Sen­ate without the com­mit­tee’s ap­prov­al, a move pre­vi­ous ma­jor­ity lead­ers have used in rare in­stances for stalled nom­in­ees. In 2005, the nom­in­a­tion of former Am­bas­sad­or to the United Na­tions John Bolton was sent to a vote be­fore the Sen­ate without the back­ing of the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee. Re­id has not stated wheth­er he will use such a man­euver, but he did push the White House to nom­in­ate Binz over the ori­gin­al choice, John Nor­ris. 

Ac­cord­ing to Sen­ate data, only five nom­in­a­tions that got a neut­ral re­port­ing from a com­mit­tee have been brought to the floor since 1987, and only one was ap­proved. Sim­il­arly, only five neg­at­ive re­ports on nom­in­ees were sent to the Sen­ate floor, and just one was ap­proved.

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