Concerns raised about NOAA deputy administrator nominee stall confirmation process

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Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) took the nomination of Jane Luxton to be NOAA deputy administrator and possible Climate Change Science Program director off the agenda of a committee hearing today after deciding not to proceed further with the confirmation process this year.  This step resulted from intervention by several members of the committee, showing responsiveness to concerns raised about the appropriateness of the nomination.  We have criticized this nomination. The committee is wise to step back and, when they take up this matter in 2007, members should consider this position in the context of a serious examination of the important position of Climate Change Science Program director, its place in the overall structure, and how it should be filled. 

See our previous entries on the Luxton nomination on December 4 (“Upcoming confirmation vote a threat to the integrity of the Climate Change Science Program”) and September 26 (“Questions about White House nominee to replace Jim Mahoney at NOAA”).

E&E News PM (by subscription) reported today:

NOAA: Deputy administrator pick yanked from Senate agenda
E&E News PM, 5 Dec 2005
Lauren Morello, E&ENews PM reporter

The Senate Commerce Committee abruptly postponed a nomination hearing today for Jane Luxton, the Bush administration’s choice for NOAA’s No. 2 spot and a candidate for leading the Climate Change Science Program.

“Several” senators opposed the nomination, a Republican aide said. Moreover, Senate leaders did not want to call a floor vote on a nominee with objections with just a few days until adjournment.

As late as Friday, Republican aides said outgoing Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) aimed for a hearing, a committee vote and a possible floor vote this week on Luxton’s nomination and two others.

But environmentalists said last week that they expected trouble for Luxton’s nomination, citing her lack of experience with oceanic and atmospheric issues and her work representing trade metals associations (E&E Daily, Dec. 4).

If confirmed, Luxton—now a partner at King & Spalding LLP—would become assistant secretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy administrator of NOAA. The posts have been vacant since James Mahoney retired in April.

Sources on and off the Hill have also identified Luxton as a key candidate to take over the reins of the Climate Change Science Program, which Mahoney directed. The program coordinates $2 billion in research across 13 agencies.

A Commerce Department source said Friday no decision has been made as to whether Luxton would be appointed to head the program if she is confirmed for the NOAA deputy administrator job.

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