In a surprising turn of events, Senate Republicans struck an agreement with the White House over the weekend which cleared the way for Senate approval of about 175 pending nominations, including that of FERC Commissioner Suedeen G. Kelly for a second term, and which will result in the expected recess appointment of two nominees to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in January, Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) said.

The compromise, which came in the early hours of Sunday as the 108th Congress neared its end, freed a large number of nominations that were being held hostage by incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Reid was holding up all nominations until he won confirmation of Gregory B. Jaczko to the NRC. Jaczko, a Reid aide, opposed the government’s plan to deliver tons of spent nuclear water to a repository in Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Capitol Hill sources wrongly predicted Friday that Kelly’s nomination was dead in this Congress, and that she would have to be re-nominated by President Bush again in 2005 as a FERC Commissioner, and go through the confirmation process again in the Senate, in order to regain her seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (see Daily GPI, Nov. 22).

“It was not looking very encouraging on Friday” for Kelly’s confirmation, said Bill Wicker, a spokesman for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Monday. But after “a lot of hard discussions and arrangements,” a deal was reached that paved the way for the Senate to approve the nominations by unanimous consent, he noted.

“I’m relieved that the suspense is over and truly excited to have the opportunity to continue serving the nation’s energy customers in this important role,” Kelly said Monday.

Kelly joined the Commission in November 2003, and served out the remainder of a term of a prior Commissioner that expired on June 30 of this year. Since then, she has remained on the Commission under a grace period that was to expire when Congress adjourned for the year. The White House re-nominated Kelly, a former New Mexico regulator, to a second term in April.

Kelly, a Democrat, was confirmed for a full five-year term that will expire on June 30, 2009. Without her, FERC would have been made up of all Republicans — FERC Chairman Pat Wood, and Commissioners Nora M. Brownell and Joseph Kelliher.

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