Norman Bay and Cheryl LaFleur won U.S. Senate confirmation today to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, overcoming opponents who said Bay was too inexperienced for the post.
Bay won Senate approval by a vote of 52-45. Lawmakers confirmed LaFleur by a 90-7 vote.
In a deal Senate Democrats brokered with the White House, LaFleur will remain acting chairman of the five-person commission for nine months. FERC Enforcement Director Bay, President Barack Obama’s choice to be chairman, will succeed LaFleur in the top post after serving as a commissioner.
The vote settles more than a year of uncertainty about leadership at the FERC, which oversees the reliability of the nation’s electric grid and polices energy markets against manipulation. A previous Obama chairman nominee, former Colorado utility regulator Ron Binz, withdrew in September after failing to win enough support in the Senate.
Republicans questioned the leadership qualifications of Bay, a former federal prosecutor in New Mexico.
“He has never served on the commission and does not possess the background in policy areas that FERC is charged with overseeing,” Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said today in remarks before the vote. LaFleur “is much more qualified to hold the chair position,” he said.
Bay has been the FERC’s enforcement office since July 2009, leading investigations of alleged market manipulation by companies including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Barclays Plc.
LaFleur, a commissioner since 2010, is the former acting chief executive of National Grid Plc’s U.S. unit.