Hoecker Seeks Sanction Of Recess Appointment
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) reportedly has refused
to sign off on a presidential recess appointment that would enable
FERC Chairman James J. Hoecker to stay on at the Commission for
another year until the end of the 2001 congressional session,
according to industry sources in Washington.
As it stands now Hoecker's term ends at the close of the current
congressional session, which has been extended until this week.
There will then be only three seats filled on the five-member FERC
Hoecker has conditioned his acceptance of a recess appointment
on receiving the approvals of two Senate Republican heavyweights on
Capitol Hill - Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) and Lott, an industry
source said. Murkowski reportedly has agreed to sign off on a
recess appointment for Hoecker, the source noted, but "Lott is not
going to do so."
Neither the White House nor Hoecker require the senators'
blessings for a recess appointment to go through, but "he [Hoecker]
is philosophically bent on getting both of their approvals before
he does it" to avoid any ill will on Capitol Hill.
"He doesn't need it [their approval]. But I think he doesn't
want any heat. He doesn't want a fight" over his recess
appointment, the insider noted. The Clinton administration as well,
has promised Senate leaders to clear recess appointments with them
The Constitution gives the president the power to fill vacancies
that occur during the Senate recess. Senate lawmakers generally
oppose such appointments because they don't require their
"We have no comment on the chairman's status," said a spokesman
at the Commission last week, when asked to confirm whether Lott had
refused to okay Hoecker's recess appointment. A press aide for
Murkowski was unable to verify reports that the senator was
favorable to a Hoecker recess apointment. Lott's office failed to
return telephone calls.
Commissioner William Massey, the senior Democrat after Hoecker,
said his "working assumption is that [Hoecker] will receive a
Hoecker's appointment would extend the three-Democrat majority
into next year, denying a potential Republican president the right
to dominate the Commission since he could only name a Republican
for the remaining vacant slot. The then-president could
nevertheless replace Hoecker as chairman with his own choice, and
he could redress the balance issue when the next vacancy occurs.
Hoecker's term expired at the end of June, and since then he has
been serving under a grace period, which ends when Congress
adjourns for the year.
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