The Obama administration announced two weeks ago that it would renominate Republican Commissioner Kristine L. Svinicki to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), but it has yet to act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, refuses to say whether he will bring up her nomination for a vote. Apparently, Ms. Svinicki’s membership is getting blackballed.
By law, the minority party in the Senate picks two commissioners of the five-member NRC, while the White House chooses the other three, including the chairman. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, submitted Ms. Svinicki’s name to the president for renomination in December 2010 so it could be wrapped up well before her term expires in June of this year. Background and ethics checks were concluded quickly. After inexplicable delay, the White House privately committed to move on Ms. Svinicki in January but then went radio silent until Mr. McConnell - worried about the impending expiration of her term - lambasted the apparent effort to hold her back.
Confirmation fights are common enough, but what’s not is a public campaign by the majority to keep someone’s name from even being sent to the Senate for debate and a vote. Mr. Reid’s willingness to come out publicly against Ms. Svinicki’s very nomination points to collusion with the White House to kick the only female commissioner off the team. More damning are persistent allegations that Mr. Reid’s former staffer, NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko, doesn’t play well with girls.
Before Mr. Jaczko was chairman, Ms. Svinicki was confirmed unanimously by a Democrat-controlled Senate in 2008, with members of both parties singing her praises. A nuclear engineer with industry experience, she served out her term with distinction and was on track to be given another until she helped blow the whistle on persistent bullying by Mr. Jaczko. Along with her fellow commissioners, Ms. Svinicki signed an October letter to then-White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley pleading for help with Mr. Jaczko’s outrageous and worsening behavior since assuming the chairmanship. After the letter leaked to the public late last year, all five commissioners were summoned before California Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Testimony of his peers revealed that Mr. Jaczko is prone to “continued outbursts of abusive rage,” “ranting at the staff,” “raging verbal assault” and inspiring panic attacks in subordinates, particularly women. This was on top of an inspector general’s report that mentioned staff complaints about Mr. Jaczko creating “an intimidating work environment.” In the face of such evidence, Mr. Jaczko’s defense that he’s just “passionate about safety” is pretty weak tea.
If Mr. Jaczko - backed by Mr. Reid - is allowed to have his way, the NRC will become his personal He-man Woman-Haters Club. Republicans need to step up and force Ms. Svinicki’s nomination so she can keep her job. After all, the best way to defeat bullies is to stand up to them.
Anneke E. Green is Assistant Editorial Page Editor of The Washington Times. She is on Twitter: @AnnekeEGreen.