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Hoecker Seeks Sanction Of Recess Appointment

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 panel.

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 in advance.

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 confirmation.

"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 recess appointment."

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.

Susan Parker

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