Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko has come under fire recently from his fellow NRC commissioners regarding alleged problems with his leadership.
After pulling out all the stops and twice putting blanket holds on executive branch nominations to get Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko in place, it’s no surprise that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is sticking by his man.
“Greg Jaczko, as everyone knows worked for me, is actually a very brilliant man,” the Nevada Democrat said last week.
“His No. 1 concern during the entire time he’s been at the NRC is nuclear safety,” Reid continued. “We are so fortunate as a country, and really as a world, to have the good work that he did following the terrible disaster we had in Japan. He focused on safety. I am sorry to say a number of people that work with him, as commissioners, are not concerned about safety. They are concerned about the nuclear industry. He is concerned about the American people, the so-called consumer.”
Jaczko has been accused by the other four commissioners in the bipartisan agency of having a heavy-handed management style — a state of affairs, his detractors contend, that has disrupted the commission’s ability to complete its nuclear-safety mission. In an October letter to the White House, the four NRC commissioners — two Democrats and two Republicans — complained about Jaczko’s leadership.
“This letter is not about politics; it is signed by two Democratic and two Republican members of this commission,” NRC Commissioner George Apostolakis said. “It is not about Yucca Mountain. It is not about other policy disagreements.”
But when Reid was seeking to install Jaczko at the NRC, it was all about Yucca Mountain — a proposed nuclear waste dump about 90 miles from Las Vegas that Reid has spent the better part of his career trying to kill.
Just as Jaczko’s leadership at the NRC has been marked by controversy, his journey to join the agency was also a tortured one, fraught with political jockeying unparalleled in recent years.
It started in September 2003, when Reid, who was then Minority Whip, placed a blanket hold over all of President George W. Bush’s executive nominations in order to force Bush to nominate Jaczko to one of the commission’s Democratic seats. A month later, Reid removed his blanket hold after the White House acceded to his demands.
However, Reid brought the blanket hold back when he believed Senate Republicans were slow-walking Jaczko’s nomination through the Senate, something Reid regarded as a violation of the agreement with the White House.
Although Bush nominated Jaczko in February 2004, the White House initially objected to Jaczko, in part over his opposition to a proposal to send tens of thousands of tons of spent nuclear waste to the planned repository at Yucca Mountain. The White House agreed to support Jaczko’s nomination after he pledged to recuse himself from any votes on Yucca Mountain-related issues for one year if he were confirmed.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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