The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee plans to fast-track the nomination of sitting FERC Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff to a full five-year term at the agency, which some believe may help to move ahead the stalled nomination to a second term of Chairman Joseph Kelliher.

The Senate panel has scheduled Wellinghoff’s confirmation hearing for Tuesday and plans to vote out his nomination Wednesday. “We want to get Wellinghoff’s nomination out [of committee] and on the Senate calendar before we leave for Christmas” either Thursday or Friday, said Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), committee chairman.

There are “strong suggestions,” from “lobbyists all over town,” that if the two Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) nominations are paired, both will have a good chance of being voted on by the Senate prior to the Christmas adjournment, he noted. “It would make sense because nominations are done in pairs.”

He believes that tying Wellinghoff, an Independent and “favorite pick” of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), to Kelliher will help to move the stalled nomination of Kelliher, a Republican, along.

Wellinghoff’s scheduled nomination hearing before the Senate energy panel comes one week after President Bush tapped him for a new term to expire on June 30, 2013 (see Daily GPI, Dec. 13). Typically it takes weeks or months before the committee holds a hearing on a nominee.

Wellinghoff, a former attorney from Nevada, was initially sworn in at FERC on July 31, 2006 to serve out the remainder of the term of former Commissioner William Massey. His current term will expire June 30, 2008.

The Senate energy committee voted out Kelliher’s nomination for a second term at FERC to the full Senate in late May, where it has been pending ever since (see Daily GPI, May 24). His current term expired on June 30, but he has been allowed to continue to serve while awaiting Senate action on his nomination.

The White House in March nominated Kelliher for the post and to continue as chairman of the agency (see Daily GPI, March 7). His term would expire on June 30, 2012. A former Capitol Hill staffer and senior policy advisor at the Department of Energy, Kelliher has been chairman of FERC since July 2005.

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