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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 05/08/2012

Gregory Jaczko, nuclear safety chief, under fire from House Republicans


Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), listens during a House hearing in December. (Andrew Harrer - Bloomberg)

House Republicans are once again pressing a senior Obama administration official to clarify allegedly false or misleading testimony he gave to a House panel last year.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko to clarify testimony he gave to the panel in December at a hearing that addressed concerns about his leadership of the agency. Specifically, Republicans want to know whether Jaczko ever mistreated female NRC employees by harassing, intimidating or verbally abusing them.

Under questioning at the December hearing, the NRC’s four other commissioners — two Democrats and two Republicans — raised doubts about Jaczko’s leadership and said they believed he had been hostile towards female staffers.

When asked at the hearing whether he had verbally abused female colleagues, Jaczko replied: “No, I have not.”

Committee Republicans later asked Jaczko to clarify his testimony, but he failed to meet a late March deadline. So in a new letter sent Monday to Jaczko, GOP lawmakers cited transcripts of an interview conducted by the NRC inspector general with a female staffer who recalled crying in the chairman’s presence. The letter also cited testimony by the other commissioners who recalled hearing from female staffers disturbed by Jaczko’s “extreme behavior.”

In response, an NRC spokeswoman said Monday that Jaczko is reviewing the letter and preparing a response.

President Obama nominated Jaczko to the commission in 2009 after he previously served as an aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and other Democratic lawmakers. An inspector general report last year faulted him for withholding information from other commissioners about the agency’s decision to stop a safety review of a proposed nuclear waste site at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain — a project opposed by the Obama administration and Reid.

Renewed GOP focus on Jaczko comes just weeks after Senate Republicans accused the White House of delaying the re-nomination of NRC Republican commissioner Kristine L. Svinicki because she had spoken out so publicly about Jaczko’s behavior at the December hearing. Republican senators suggested the White House was disingenuously raising concerns about women’s rights by failing to quickly re-nominate a woman who had raised concerns about how female colleagues were treated in a federal workplace. The White House quickly announced it planned to re-nominate Svinicki for a new five-year term.

The committee’s decision to press Jaczko also comes as it prepares to consider holding Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress for failing to reply to questions regarding the Justice Department’s investigation into the so-called “Fast and Furious” scandal.

In response, some White House aides accuse Republican committees of targeting administration officials in hopes of stirring up accusations for election-year gains.

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By  |  06:00 AM ET, 05/08/2012

 
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