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Calling All Potential Republican Commissioners

Word out of Washington Friday was that the search for a Republican FCC commissioner nominee was heating up.

At press time, the President’s nomination of old friend and tech policy advisor Julius Genachowski had still not been sent to the Senate, suggesting to some, including me, that the administration was still trying to line up a Republican and package the nominations with the expected choice of Mignon Clyburn to replace commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. Clyburn is a South Carolina public service commissioner and daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) who sources say has been going through the vetting process.

A White House spokesperson had not returned a call at press time about when Genachowski’s name might be sent to the Senate, which would constitute his official nomination (currently, the president has only indicated his intention to nominate).

Genachowsi, Clyburn and current acting Chairman Michael Copps would represent a three-to-one Democratic majority (Robert McDowell is the lone Republican), something that wouldn’t sit particularly well with Republicans. While they are in the minority and couldn’t hold up confirmation with a vote, by long-standing custom a single Republican Senator can put a hold on any nomination for any, or no, reason.

Adelstein isn’t out the door yet, but he could be heading to the Ad Department to administer its Rural Utilities Service (RUS) program, a job that now includes helping hand out billions in new economic stimulus funds for broadband deployment, working with, among others, the FCC. Adelstein has been with the commission for six years, and rather than stick around in a similar capacity–which may not be an option–he could be looking forward to the challenge of managing several hundred people in a program furthering a key Obama administration goal

A number of Republican names have been floated for the seat vacated by commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate last January, including Hilda Legg. If Adelstein did move to Ag and Legg got the Republican nod, there would be a kind of Karmic balance. She is the former administrator of the RUS program under President George W. Bush

Meredith Baker, former NTIA acting head, may also still be in the running. While she headed the DTV-to-analog converter box coupon program that has mostly been in the news over running out of money and helping prompt the move of the DTV hard date, she got high marks for collegiality atop NTIA.

To add more karma, the head of NTIA is also responsible for handing out billions in broadband buildout money from the economic stimulus package.