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Attempt To Hotline Genachowski, McDowell Nominations Falls Short

The nominations of Julius Genachowski for FCC chairman and Robert McDowell for FCC commissioner were not among a raft of nominees approved by the Senate Friday.

Sources confirm Senate Democratic leaders tried to hotline their nominations, which means by unanimous consent without debate or even an actual vote. But just one Senator can keep that from happening, and at least one did.

A list of the nominations obtained by B&C did not include the pair, though it did include the other nominee vetted at a Senate Commerce Commitee hearing this past week, Inez Moore Tenenbaum, as chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) voted against Genachowski at his nomination hearing Tuesady in the Senate Commerce Committee, so he could well have been the hold-up on Genachowski Friday. His office had not returned a call at press time as to whether he also opposed the hotlining.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, still has issues with Commissioner McDowell's answers to a couple of questions, said a source familiar with his thinking, including on the FCC's E-rate program, which funds wiring of schools and libraries, which Rockefeller was instrumental in creating.

Those nominations could still get approval the old-fashioned way--a floor vote--next week. The Senate doesn't go on its July 4 break until June 29.

According to a copy of those questions and answers obtained by B&C, McDowell pledged to “follow Congress’ mandate as codified in the statute to implement and administer the E-rate program.” McDowell has called for review of that and other FCC programs, suggesting it was simply reasonable stewardship to vet them.

The Universal Service Fund, for example, which similarly funds telecommunications service to hard-to-reach places is almost universally cited as a funding program that needs reviewing and revamping.

Senator Rockefeller also asked whether the commissioner had "reached out" to any companies the FCC regulates to help with his renomination and whether he had expressed his appreciation for that support.

McDowell said he had not organized any third-party effort and had expressed only "general appreciation" for the support he had gotten.

McDowell responded: "It is safe to assume that an indefinite number of people freely exercised their First Amendment rights to petition their government in support of and in opposition to my renomination to the Commission," he wrote the Senator. "It is impossible for me or anyone else to know who all of these individuals are and who employs them - nor should I try to find out. In the same vein, I have not initiated any organized effort by third parties. Given this, I have expressed only general appreciation for any words of support that I have received directly."

A committee source said it was safe to say the senator still had problems with those answers.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.