Dems Pushing Through Nuclear Commission Nominee Who Recently Visited His First Nuke Energy Plant

WASHINGTON – Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee remain annoyed that Democrats are pressing ahead with the appointment of Jeff Baran to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission without a confirmation hearing before the full panel.

The nomination made it through the committee on Dec. 2. The 10 affirmative votes in Baran’s favor came from Democrats. Republicans did not attend the session -- all voted no by proxy. The nomination is scheduled to come before the full Senate on Monday.

It is expected to pass despite widespread Republican opposition thanks in large measure to a rules change earlier this year that prohibits filibusters of presidential appointees.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the decision by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chairman, to proceed without providing lawmakers the opportunity to question Baran broke committee precedent.

"The safety and success of our nuclear future depends on the members of NRC to be highly qualified, independent, and thoughtful," Vitter said. "Clearly, it is irresponsible to extend Jeff Baran's term considering how he lacks the necessary scientific experience and education -- especially without a full committee hearing to consider his nomination for a full term.”

Vitter and the other committee members sought permission to question Baran on his nomination but Boxer denied the request, asserting that Baran has only recently gone through the confirmation process. He was appointed by President Obama to fill the unexpired term of commission member William Magwood and confirmed by the full Senate earlier this year.

Baran was sworn in on Oct. 14. His current term ends on June 30, 2015. He subsequently was nominated to fill the unexpired term of departing Commission Chairwoman Allison MacFarlane. That term extends to June 30, 2018.

In a letter dated Nov. 18, the committee’s GOP members said appointing Baran to a four-year term as opposed to his current term extending only 10 months is “drastic and many questions remain concerning the qualifications of Baran.”

The letter added, “It is imperative to the security and reliability of our nation’s energy needs that the members of the NRC be independent, thoughtful and highly qualified. We have a responsibility on behalf of our constituencies to hold a full committee hearing on Baran to consider if he possesses the capabilities to adequately fulfill his duties in a term of this length.”