Groups Want FCC's Rosenworcel Out, Then Back In

Some deregulatory groups are trying to prevent a possible "compromise" vote on the re-nomination of Democratic FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel, suggesting instead that she be  leave the commission after the current congress, but return during the next.

Tech Freedom and the Competitive Enterprise Institute have joined with a couple of others in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to say that while they supported Rosenworcel's re-nomination, but not if it creates a deadlocked, 2-2 commission and certainly not before FCC Chairman Tom wheeler leaves to remove the possibility of a Republican President and a Democratic majority on the FCC.

That means they want Rosenworcel to have to leave the FCC after the lame duck, but then be returned to her seat after a new chair or third Republican commissioner is seated. They say they expect Rosenworcel to be a "constructive participant" in reforming the FCC under a Republican majority, but don't want her continued presence on the commission to prevent that majority during the transition.

"[T]here simply is not time to properly consider a new nomination now, even if Chairman Wheeler were to resign immediately and President Obama   were to  nominate a Republican chosen by the President-elect. So the only way to avoid hamstringing the new FCC Chairman (acting or otherwise) is for Commissioner Rosenworcel to take a brief hiatus from the Commission. This is unfortunate, but better than the alternative. Pairing her with Republicans will give both parties a strong incentive to move quickly on all three nominations. We expect that both could  be  confirmed  by  March.  In the interim, Chairman Wheeler could shift Rosenworcel’s staff to regular agency positions. This would make it easy for her to  reconstitute her office when she returns to the Commission, without her staff missing a paycheck."

At press time, Rosenworcel's nomination remained on a list of nominations on the Senate Executive Calendar that were still awaiting floor votes, where her nomination has been since Dec. 9, 2015, when it was placed their after her unanimous vote out of the Senate Commerce Committee. A floor vote was not scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 6, but could happen off the floor under unanimous consent (UC), essentially a fast-track approval for noncontroversial nominations or legislation. Like a nomination hold, it would take only one Senator not agreeing to put the kibosh on a UC approval.

That is probably unlikely given that if she is reconfirmed a new Republican Administration would not have a majority on the FCC until a new chairman was named.

Rosenworcel's term expired July 1, 2015, but commissioners are allowed to continue serving until the end of the Congress following that in which their term expires, which means she has to exit in January unless her nomination is voted and approved on the Senate floor in the lame duck session.

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.