Myers Nomination for NOAA Administrator Clears Committee

Myers Nomination for NOAA Administrator Clears Committee

The nomination of Barry Lee Myers to head NOAA cleared the Senate Commerce, Science and  Transportation Committee today on a party-line vote. Nominated by President Trump in 2017 and again in 2018, he was not confirmed by 115th Congress because of controversy over his ties to AccuWeather, which is owed by his brother and where he worked for a large part of his career.  He severed his employment with the company early this year and was renominated in January.

Barry Lee Myers. Credit: Myers’ LinkedIn page.

Today’s 14-12 party-line vote approving his nomination took place without debate.  The committee did not hold a hearing on the nomination this year, although it did in November 2017 and approved the nomination the next month.  He did not win confirmation that year and was renominated, and reapproved by committee, in January 2018.  It did not get any further, however.

In the 115th Congress, then-Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) was Myers’ most vocal critic. He lost his reelection race so is not in the Senate to oppose him this time.  All Democrats on the committee voted against the nomination today, however.

Nelson’s concern was that in the past Myers had tried to get legislation passed to prevent the National Weather Service from offering a product or service that could be provided by the private sector. That move “would have directly benefited AccuWeather,” while putting Americans’ access to “free and potentially life-saving government weather forecasts” at risk.

The National Weather Service is part of NOAA.

Trump renominated Myers to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of NOAA on January 21, 2019.  Two weeks earlier, AccuWeather announced that effective January 1, 2019, he had stepped down as an officer and director and sold all his interests in the company.  AccuWeather is still owned by his brother, however.

With Nelson’s absence and a larger Republican majority in the Senate this year, Myers may have an easier route to confirmation.  In addition, the Senate voted to change its rules for approving presidential nominations today that will make it easier for nominees like Myers to win.  It reduces from 30 hours to 2 hours the amount of time allowed for debate on nominations in the final stage of the process.  It does not apply to nominations for Cabinet-level positions, federal appeals courts, or the Supreme Court nominations, but the Myers’ nomination does not fit any of those categories so it should help him.  The rules change was adopted 51-48, with all Democrats and two Republicans voting no.

Neil Jacobs is currently the acting Administrator of NOAA, taking over from Timothy Gallaudet, who held that position for about a year.  Jacobs is Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Prediction and Observation.  Gallaudet is Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere.

The committee approved seven other nominations, all on 14-12 party-line votes.

It also approved several pieces of legislation including S. 881, Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act, and S. 919, the Space Frontier Act.  No amendments were offered to those bills.

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