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With Senate Action, Gregory Jaczko Out, Allison MacFarlane In at Nuke Agency

The Senate today confirmed the nomination of Allison Macfarlane to head the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Kristine Svinicki for a second term on the commission.

The Senate approved the confirmation before clearing out for the Independence Day recess. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also set up a procedural vote on a small-business tax cut package.

Macfarlane takes over from outgoing Chairman Gregory Jaczko, whose tenure on the panel was tumultuous.

Last month, Jaczko announced he would resign upon the confirmation of his successor, after months in which he battled accusations by the four other commissioners of the bipartisan agency of having a heavy-handed management style. That style, his detractors contend, disrupted the NRC’s ability to complete its nuclear-safety mission.

The nominations of Macfarlane and Svinicki were cleared by the Environment and Public Works Committee last week.

At a hearing earlier this month, committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Macfarlane was the right person to take over the NRC and put it back on track to fulfill its mission of ensuring nuclear safety.

Macfarlane also had the backing of Reid, in part because of her opposition to building a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev. Macfarlane has said the location is not geologically suitable, and Reid has been a leading opponent of the project, pledging to kill it. Jaczko, a former Reid staffer, also opposed the project.

The nomination of Svinicki, a Republican, was packaged together with Macfarlane to ensure the confirmation of both.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the panel, has praised Svinicki, and he said he knew Svinicki from when she was a Republican staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee for Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.).

“The nomination of Kristine Svinicki to continue to serve on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is crucial; especially as the Commission enters a tumultuous time with a lack of transparent leadership while continuing to make important decisions regarding nuclear safety,” Inhofe said at a hearing earlier this month.

Upon returning from the Independence Day break, the Senate is scheduled to vote July 10 on whether to take up the Democrats’ small-business tax bill. Under the bill, which is part of President Barack Obama’s “to-do” list for Congress, a 10 percent income tax credit would be provided on new payroll — through either hiring or increased wages in 2012. The provision would provide a maximum increase in eligible wages of $5 million per employer with the amount of the credit capped at $500,000.

The bill also extends “bonus depreciation” for one year. The provision allows businesses to write off the entire cost of major purchases in the year they are made rather than depreciate those expenses over many years. By accelerating the recovery time of investment costs through bonus depreciation, additional first-year deductions for new investment lower the after-tax costs of plants and equipment — which is designed to encourage new investment and promotes economic recovery.

Action on the measure comes after the House in April passed a bill that would give a 20 percent tax cut to businesses with fewer than 500 employees — a threshold Democrats argue is too broad and does not guarantee new jobs.

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