Ron Binz announced Tuesday that he withdrew from consideration for the top position at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, halting his bid in the face of congressional opposition and dealing the Obama administration a major blow for a typically routine appointment.
“Last evening, I asked the president that my name be withdrawn from further consideration as his nominee,” Binz said in a statement. “I am withdrawing so that the president can move forward with another nominee, allowing the FERC to continue its important work with a full complement of commissioners.”
Republicans had dismissed Binz as beholden to Obama’s green energy agenda, accusing him of favoring renewable energy sources at the expense of coal.
The Obama appointment had been in doubt ever since Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., came out against the nomination. Without full Democratic support, Binz didn’t have the votes to make it out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
And the White House could ill afford a contentious confirmation fight while already battling lawmakers on the budget and immigration, among other issues.
Binz’s nomination became a proxy fight against the administration’s first-ever proposed limits on carbon emissions from power plants.
Republicans have accused the president of waging a “war on coal” — a label that Binz was never able to shake.
The Binz confirmation fight landed on the national radar when the Wall Street Journal came out against the nomination, putting the spotlight on the sleepy federal agency. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., facing a tough re-election campaign, repeatedly railed against Binz's confirmation.
An independent commission of five members, FERC regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil and electricity; handles proposals to build natural gas pipelines; and does licensing for hydropower projects.
The White House had already started vetting candidates to replace Binz, Manchin said last week.
White House officials did not immediately respond to questions for comment about Binz’s decision.