Reid open to compromise on Bay nomination

Source: Hannah Northey and Elana Schor, E&E reporters • Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today left the door open to delaying the ascension of Norman Bay, President Obama’s choice for chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Reid, whose interest in FERC runs deep, said in a brief interview that he would be inclined to support whatever solution Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) advances to a bipartisan impasse over installing Bay immediately as chairman. When asked if that would extend to backing a delay in Bay’s move to the helm, however, Reid stopped short of full assent.

“We’ll see,” he said. “We’re not there yet.”

High-stakes negotiations have been ongoing leading up to tomorrow’s confirmation vote in the Senate ENR panel on Bay and Cheryl LaFleur, FERC’s acting chairwoman who Obama tapped for a second five-year term as a commissioner.

Landrieu told reporters today that the Senate panel is “very close” when asked about a tentative agreement on Bay and LaFleur.

“My goal has been to try to bring both sides together, to move forward on appointments to a very important commission,” Landrieu said. “We are very close, I think, to getting both of these new nominees situated correctly on the commission.”

Landrieu and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the committee’s top Republican, said tomorrow’s meeting will not be canceled under any circumstances.

“We’re going to have it tomorrow regardless of whether there’s a deal or not,” Landrieu said. “They’ll either go forward, or they’ll all fail.”

Senators have for weeks been negotiating a deal to keep Bay as a commissioner for up to a year while LaFleur stays put at the agency’s helm. Landrieu said the debate is about “keeping the right balance of experience and new eyes, a new vision to this important commission.”

Reid and a host of Democrats are backing Bay, a former prosecutor from New Mexico who now leads FERC’s Office of Enforcement, while a number of other pro-energy Democrats and Republicans have raised questions about Bay’s energy chops, policy positions and handling of enforcement cases.

Landrieu has been supportive of Bay throughout the confirmation process, and today said former Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete Domenici’s (R-N.M.) willingness to testify for Bay at his confirmation hearing spoke volumes.

“I don’t think Pete Domenici would have ever showed up before a committee that he used to chair and provide testimony for a person that wasn’t qualified,” she said.