(Reuters) - President Barack Obama will renominate Republican Kristine Svinicki to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, defying opposition from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a White House official told Reuters on Thursday.
Republicans want Svinicki, whose term as a commissioner expires in June, to stay on the panel and believe the process is being held up because she, along with three other commission members, accused the current NRC chairman, a Democrat, of bullying women.
The president will renominate her, the official said. Expect the official nomination to happen in the coming days.
Reid, a Democrat, vehemently opposes Svinicki, saying she is too close to the nuclear industry she regulates and does not deserve the job.
A vacancy could cause gridlock along party lines at the commission and delay safety reforms at U.S. nuclear plants that the NRC ordered after Japan's nuclear disaster.
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Republicans are rallying behind Svinicki as they try to improve their ratings among female voters in the run-up to the November 6 presidential election.
The move by the Democratic president may be seen as a rare gesture of bipartisanship in the midst of an election year.
Relations between the White House and congressional Republicans are tense after months of bruising standoffs over budget and deficit issues.
The move is also a sign of the importance the White House places on the work of the NRC.
Last year, Svinicki and the three other commissioners at the NRC - two Democrats, two Republicans - took the unprecedented step of complaining to the White House about the management style of Gregory Jaczko, the NRC chairman.
Their concerns were made public in December during hearings on Capitol Hill, where the commissioners accused Jaczko - a former Reid staffer - of berating senior women NRC staff members, bringing them to tears in front of others.