FCC Commissioners Could Be Confirmed by Senate the Night of Oct. 16

At press time, it looked as though the Senate could fast-track a vote on FCC nomninees, potentially approving them as early as the evening of Oct. 16 if there are no objections.

Republican nominee Michael O'Rielly has not had a vote in the committee, but according to an e-mail announcing the so-called "hotlining" of the nominations, Tom Wheeler's nomination as the new chair would be called up and confirmed by the full Senate, so long as there are no objections (by so-called "unanimous consent") and O'Rielly's discharge affirmatively from the committee and confirmation would be rolled into one similar UC vote.

Wheeler was nominated to a five-year term beginning july 1, 2013, while O'Rielly only gets to fill out the unfilled remainder of Robert McDowell's term, which ends June 30. 2014, after which O'Rielly will need to be renominated.

 The FCC is currently at three members, two Democrats and one Republican, led by acting chair Mignon Clyburn. The FCC is currently shuttered except for exempt employees, but the Senate, in addition to possibly voting on the commissioners, is expected to vote to reopen the government, with the House following suit and the President signing the bill.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has suggested he might try to block Wheeler's nomination, but his office had not commented on that threat at press time.

There have been some Hill complaints about the FCC shutdown and its impact on a backlog of decisions on applications and deals and upcoming spectrum auctions. The Senate may be looking to get a full complement of commissioners and new chairman in ASAP to help deal with that.

It had been expected to move the nominations, barring any snag, by the end of the month, but the "hotline" plan came as a surprise to some FCC watchers.

John Eggerton

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.