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Editorial: Let Our (FCC) People Go

Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, the keynote speaker at the Media Institute’s annual free speech awards dinner on Oct. 22, joked that the person most responsible for her being able to attend in that capacity was…punch line, please—Ted Cruz! It was funny, and drew a big laugh. But it also isn’t so funny anymore.

It is time for Sen. Cruz to lift the hold on Tom Wheeler’s nomination as FCC chairman and let the agency staff up. The hold is blocking both Wheeler and Republican FCC commissioner hopeful Michael O’Rielly, since Democrats won’t vote to seat him unless the Wheeler hold is lifted. The FCC has been down to three members since May, the bare minimum for actually being able to vote on items.

Cruz does not want the FCC to boost political ad disclosures, which he sees as an end-run around the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. But Wheeler cannot prejudge the FCC’s decision on disclosures and shouldn’t have to. We hear that there is a Democratic senator who wants to make sure Wheeler does leave the disclosure issue on the table. It will be a tough tightrope to walk.

Last week, Cruz was setting up a time to meet with Wheeler, possibly early this week, to talk more about the issue. We’re sure that won’t resolve the underlying issue of disclosure, but we sure hope it results in a path to confirmation of able candidates who have bipartisan support.

It’s time to close the curtain on this political theater and let President Obama’s nominees, both approved out of committee with almost unanimous votes—O’Rielly unanimous, Wheeler with only Cruz’s “no” vote—get to work. And there is plenty of work to do.