McConnell sets vote on Trump FERC nominee

Source: By Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The partisan fight over filling vacancies on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is heading to the Senate floor this week.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved to end debate yesterday on the nomination of James Danly to serve on the commission.

The procedural vote likely paves the way for the Danly nomination to go through as soon as today. Because of changes to the Senate’s confirmation vote rules, he only needs a simple majority to pass. That may benefit Danly, who currently serves as the general counsel at the commission.

Democrats have largely opposed his nomination in the past four months in protest over the lack of a paired Democratic pick to fill another vacancy left behind by the departure of Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur.

Despite Democrats putting forward energy attorney Allison Clements as their preferred choice, the White House has yet to act on the suggestion.

That has prompted an outcry from Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that boiled over during the committee vote to advance the Danly nomination.

“I think this is a sad day, and let me say that the FERC is not working,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) before the vote. “It has become a political pingpong match like everything else around here.”

Only ENR Committee ranking member Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted to advance Danly’s nomination, citing a previous commitment to support the White House’s pick.

Still, Manchin cautioned that lack of a pairing would be harmful to future FERC considerations, including the upcoming one to fill the vacancy to be left by departing Commissioner Bernard McNamee.

Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has said for months that she can only move a nomination the White House has made. But should a Democrat be named, she has promised to consider him or her in a timely fashion.

“We not only have this seat that needs to be filled, but as I mentioned, we have an additional one in just a matter of two months,” Murkowski said.

The Danly vote comes a few days after the Murkowski-Manchin broad, bipartisan energy package hit an impasse over an amendment related to superpollutants from air conditioners and refrigerators (see related story).