“I am confident whomever replaces Chairman Jaczko will share his commitment to protecting the safety of the American people over the interests of a single industry,” Reid said. Unlike many other NRC commissioners, Jaczko has never been an industry insider, instead developing his expertise as a scientist and as a nuclear policy adviser to Democratic lawmakers.
But a senior Republican aide said Jaczko’s decision to stick around means the White House will have to keep defending him and noted that an inspector general report is due in the next month. That report is expected to scrutinize Jaczko’s decision to invoke emergency powers after last year’s nuclear plant disaster in Fukushima, Japan, among other issues.
“We’re going to see more fallout,” the GOP aide predicted. “How much do you want this to continue to be front and center with the press?”
The aide noted that Obama has already pushed back against Reid by renominating Commissioner Kristine Svinicki, even though Reid and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) have accused her of misleading Congress in testimony five years ago about Yucca Mountain.
“Whichever way you go, it’s a big headache for Obama,” the aide said.
Jaczko’s supporters, however, were disappointed. Public Citizen called Jaczko’s departure “a terrifying example of industries trying to wreak havoc on those who regulate them — and winning.”
Reid pulled out all the stops to get Jaczko appointed to the NRC during the Bush administration, applying blanket holds to the administration’s nominees until it agreed to appoint him.
Jaczko ignored the attacks from his commission colleagues about his behavior in his statement.
“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was one of the best places to work in the federal government throughout my tenure,” he said in his statement.
The White House praised Jaczko and said the president would quickly nominate a successor.
“A strong and effective NRC is crucial to protecting public health and safety, promoting defense and security and protecting the environment, and we intend to nominate a new chairman soon,” White House spokesman Clark Stevens said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sharply criticized the administration for standing by Jaczko to this point.
“Dr. Jaczko’s troubling behavior as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had clearly resulted in a hostile work environment for women that ran counter to acceptable norms of workplace equality and that threatened to undermine the mission of the NRC itself,” McConnell said in a statement. “The only thing surprising about his resignation is the fact that the Obama administration has remained silent for more than a year after allegations of Jaczko’s offensive behavior surfaced. Even Democrat commissioners said that Jaczko bullied employees and intimidated female workers as chairman of the commission.”
Several House Republicans repeated calls for Jaczko to resign immediately so another commissioner can take over. And McConnell reiterated his call for the Senate to reconfirm Svinicki for another term before her post expires June 30.
Reid has opposed Svinicki as too close to the industry, but Republicans have accused him of holding up her nomination because she and the other commissioners called out Jaczko last year.
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