March 12, 2020 / 7:47 PM / in 17 days

U.S. Senate confirms Danly to FERC, widening panel's Republican majority

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday easily confirmed James Danly as a Republican member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, with three Democrats supporting him even though the approval widened the Republican majority on the panel.

The vote was 54-40, with Democratic Senators Joe Manchin, Doug Jones and Kyrsten Sinema joining Republicans to support Danly, who has been the commission’s general counsel.

The FERC, an independent office of the Department of Energy that regulates interstate transmission of electricity and natural gas and oil, now has a 3-1 Republican majority.

That is expected to narrow in coming months as commission member Bernard McNamee said in January he would step down when his term ends at the end of June.

Manchin said he would not support another Republican “no matter how well qualified, when the next Republican vacancy arises later this year, unless (President Donald Trump) sends us a nomination for the vacant Democratic seat as well.”

Several Democrats have said Danly’s nomination has been politicized by the Trump administration as it was not accompanied by a Democratic nomination. The Trump administration has tried to push FERC in the past to help subsidize aging coal and nuclear plants.

If McNamee steps down in June without a new nominee being approved, the FERC would lose its quorum, or ability to vote on issues.

Trump nominated Danly to fill a vacancy after the 2019 death of former Chairman Kevin McIntyre.

Danly’s term will expire on June 30, 2023.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Peter Cooney

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