Obama Renominates Rosenworcel to FCC but Prospects Unclear

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By Kyle Daly and Lydia Beyoud

President Barack Obama has renominated Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to the Federal Communications Commission, the White House announced Jan. 4, giving her a shot at returning to the agency after Senate inaction last year forced her to leave.

It’s unclear what Obama’s move means for Rosenworcel’s chances of actually returning to the FCC. The five-member commission will be down to just one Democrat, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, upon Chairman Tom Wheeler’s planned Jan. 20 departure.

Industry sources told Bloomberg BNA they expect the Republican-controlled Senate to wait to confirm any Democrat to the commission until President-elect Donald Trump has nominated a Republican whose nomination can be paired with a Democratic one in the Senate. The prospective Republican FCC nomination may be a new member Trump taps to serve as FCC chairman. It may also simply be a pick for a GOP commission seat if Trump elevates either Ajit Pai or Michael O’Rielly, the agency’s current two Republicans, to the chairmanship.

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) issued a statement noting his past support for a second term for Rosenworcel while signalling that the Senate is likely to wait to act on FCC nominations.

“Now that we are just days away from Inauguration, I believe the president-elect deserves to be able to nominate the commissioners he wants to serve,” Thune said in his statement. “I am open to the idea of confirming her later this year, as long as we preserve the new Republican majority on the commission in the process.”

Creating a 2-2 partisan split at the agency would doom any FCC action that’s divided along party lines, because majority votes are needed to conduct commission business.

It’s not clear whether Trump will stick with Rosenworcel or nominate someone else to fill out the FCC’s Democratic minority once he takes office.

Voices of Support

Rosenworcel already has some Democratic votes of confidence. Wheeler and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, issued statements applauding Obama’s move and calling for quick Senate action.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Bloomberg BNA that Schumer was “pleased” with the renomination and “hopes that her nomination can move forward quickly.”

Rosenworcel’s first term ended in 2015 but she was able to stay on at the commission while an earlier renomination remained pending in the full Senate, which never voted on whether to confirm her, until the 114th Congress adjourned.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kyle Daly in Washington at kdaly@bna.com; Lydia Beyoud in Washington at lbeyoud@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

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