NASHVILLE - U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said today that it would "be much better" if the Tennessee Valley Authority had a full quorum in place by Jan. 1.
But the Republican lawmaker said the federal utility would still be able to operate if President Barack Obama's five nominees haven't been confirmed by senators to the nine-member board by that time.
"It'd be much better if when we get to the first of the year the TVA board had a quorum, a majority of directors, and I hope that it does," Alexander said. "But the TVA board can continue to operate without a quorum. There are just some decisions that it couldn't make without it."
Alexander said "there'll be no interruptions in electric service, and there'll be no interruption in the daily operations of TVA even if there's not a quorum after Jan. 1."
Obama in February nominated Peter Mahurin of Bowling Green, Ky., an executive vice president of Hilliard Lyons and a 41-year financial adviser and analyst who serves on several corporate boards. But months later, the Senate has yet to take up the nomination.
The White House last week said Obama is nominating four other people to the board, including 2010 Tennessee gubernatorial nominee Mike McWherter. Also last week, Congress adjourned until after the Nov. 6 election. Lawmakers will then return for a lame-duck session.
Alexander noted it will be weeks before the White House sends the nominations to the Senate. If not blocked by any Republican or any Democratic senator from consideration, confirmation would still take weeks.
Alexander said "TVA's obviously a low priority to the administration. I've had zero conversations with the White House about these appointees, to my regret since I've place a very high priority on it. It would be much better if the nominations would have come earlier."
The senator said he agreed with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that the most important thing facing TVA is "to have high quality nominees for the largest public utility in the world."