By ERIK SCHELZIG
The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Senate has broken an impasse to confirm Bishop William Graves' reappointment to the Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors.
“It was high time, he deserves to be confirmed,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday. “He's in many ways the most qualified member of the board.”
The board nomination to the country's largest public utility had been held up by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., over concerns that the panel was not bipartisan enough. The only Democrat on the board retired last month after a nine-year term.
Reid's move caused Alexander and fellow Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker to retaliate by placing a hold on a Reid nomination for the U.S. Institute of Peace.
“I regretted having to take the steps I did to force the confirmation, but I'm glad it worked out,” Alexander said.
In return for Graves' confirmation, Alexander and Corker also lifted their hold on Nevada physician Ikram U. Khan's nomination to the U.S. Institute of Peace. The government-funded think tank and training center is best known for facilitating the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
“I finally got the majority leader's attention,” Alexander said. “My hope would be that in the future it won't take that.”
The TVA was created in the 1930s to bring prosperity to an impoverished region. It provides electricity to 8.7 million consumers in Tennessee and six surrounding states.
The Senate still hasn't confirmed another nominee, Tennessee Republican activist Susan Williams of Knoxville.
Alexander said he still hopes to get Williams and other nominees confirmed before the end of the year. But he acknowledged that time is running out.
“The Democratic majority is refusing the confirm most of the president's appointments, hoping there will be a Democratic president in January,” Alexander said.
“My view is the voters didn't elect us to take a vacation,” he said. “They expect us to do our jobs.”
Graves served on the board of the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, TVA's biggest customer, for more than a decade.
A son of sharecroppers born in Brownsville, Tenn., Graves was named the 42nd bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in 1982.
A self-described Democrat who votes independent, Graves also served as a Shelby County co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election effort.