Deal or No Deal? FCC Commissioner’s Reconfirmation Still in Limbo


A heap of unfinished business. That’s what Congress is leaving behind as it heads out of town July 14 for both parties’ conventions and six weeks of vacation. Among the issues left behind is the future of Democratic Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. 

Some behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing reportedly put Rosenworcel’s reconfirmation on ice unless FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler makes clear when he’ll step aside. But it’s unclear if there’s a deal.

With a limited number of congressional days scheduled before the Nov. 8 elections, and some heated campaigning in the interim as lawmakers seek to hold onto their seats, Rosenworcel’s renomination is likely to remain a political piñata until the end of the year.

Rosenworcel’s term officially ended in December 2015, and she has been awaiting reconfirmation by the Senate ever since the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved her nomination earlier this year.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) both called July 14 for Rosenworcel to be reconfirmed. 

Reid took to the Senate floor to lambast his Republican counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for failing to live up to what Reid described as his promise to reconfirm the commissioner. “19 months and the Republican Leader has yet to keep his word to me,” Reid said.

McConnell’s spokesman, David Popp, declined to comment on Reid’s remarks, and said he had no scheduling announcements to make.

Reid has said he struck an unusual deal in 2014 with McConnell to pair Rosenworcel’s renomination with the appointment of Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. Republican senators reportedly have a hold on Rosenworcel’s reconfirmation so long as Wheeler declines to say explicitly when he’ll turn the chairman’s gavel over to someone else.

“I hope Commissioner Rosenworcel gets confirmed,” Wheeler said during a post-FCC meeting press conference. “Commissioner Rosenworcel is an important part of this body, as you saw today and as I see every day, and she deserves to be confirmed and not held up by this random issue,” he said. 

While Wheeler wouldn’t respond directly to a question on whether he intends to step down after a transition to a new administration, he did say he would work with whoever does next occupy the White House on “an appropriate next step at this agency.”