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Clyburn, Baker Hearing Expectations

The Senate Commerce Committee has sent out the particulars on its hearing July 15 for FCC commission nominees Mignon Clyburn and Meredith Attwell Baker.

According to one source on background, they are expected to get committee approval without any difficulty. Baker is a known commodity, having run NTIA before exiting. She could get some questions about problems with the DTV-to-analog coupon program, but most of those are laid at the feet of the administration rather than Baker, whose stewardship got high marks for collegiality and whose hands were believed to be tied to some degree by the Bush administration.

Clyburn is the daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn, which doesn’t make her a lock, but doesn’t hurt either.

If there is any holdup, it would be in a full Senate vote, and it might or might not have anything to do with their qualifications.

The nominations of Chairman Julius Genachowski and Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell were held up briefly by Senators concerned with a couple of their written answers to questions submitted after their hearings, so that is a possibility with Baker and Clyburn.

But according to the same source, the “million dollar question” is whether some unrelated issue could crop up.

“Committee approval is not the problem,” the source said. “[I]t is the X-factor (something that we don’t know about yet) that could throw a monkey wrench into things. We will just have to stay tuned.”

Since a single senator can block a nomination, can do so without identifying themselves, and can do so for any or no reason, the x-factors could be someone unhappy with the Sotomayor nomination proceeding or the health care bill that is getting pushback not only from Republicans, but from some Blue Dog dems.

If there is no hold or attendant issue, look for relatively swift approval and installation. Congress is trying to wrap up business before the August recess, which is scheduled to begin July 31.