With the Senate in semi-recess, a recess appointment by theWhite House to extend Chairman James J. Hoecker’s tour-of-duty atFERC by another year has been put on hold until after nextTuesday’s presidential and congressional elections.

In the meantime, the political in-fighting at the Commission hasstepped up a notch or two as current Commissioners Curt Hebert,Linda Breathitt and William Massey are said to be jockeying to bethe next chairman of FERC, should Hoecker refuse a recessappointment.

“If anyone that is sitting there [at FERC] tells you they’re notinterested in the job, they’re lying to you,” said an informedsource. “Linda’s working hard for it. Bill’s working hard for it,”and so too is Hebert. “Obviously, everyone would love to lead theagency.”

“Yesterday, I found out that there is some noise from the WhiteHouse about a potential…Hoecker appointment,” he said. ButHoecker, a Democrat, has indicated he will not accept a recessappointment if Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) is opposedto it. Lott has made it “abundantly clearly” that he does notsupport a Hoecker appointment.

“The proof will be in the pudding” as to whether Hoecker will betrue to his word and reject the White House’s offer because ofLott’s opposition, the source told NGI.

The true test will be next week’s presidential election. “IfGeorge Bush wins next Tuesday, I would assume that [Hoecker] willnot take a recess appointment” because he would be replaced aschairman when Bush is inaugurated in January. The Republicans “wantto be able to fill those two [vacant] Commission slots, and have amajority at FERC,” he noted.

In the remote chance that Hoecker would accept a recessappointment under a Bush administration, this would set the stagefor a gridlocked Commission next year that would have a Democraticmajority under a Republican chairmanship.

Lott has publicly said he will push for Hebert, one of the morevocal members of FERC, to be the next Commission chairman,according to the source. Lott, a long-time friend of Hebert’s, waslargely instrumental in getting Hebert named to the Commission inlate 1997. Hebert is the only Republican on the FERC panel.

In the event Al Gore should cinch the presidential election,however, this would clear the way for President Clinton to offerthe recess appointment to Hoecker, and for Hoecker to accept it. Inaddition, Gore could later nominate Hoecker to another term at theCommission.

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