Reid: GOP Inaction Would Force Rosenworcel Out

The Republicans do not plan to allow a vote on the renomination of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel this year, according to Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). If that were the case, Rosenworcel would have to exit since her term is over at year's end.

As reported by B&C/Multichannel News, Reid took to the Senate floor Thursday (April 21) to call for a floor vote on Rosenworcel's renomination, in the process saying Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had broken his word to act on Rosenworcel after the Democrats agreed last year to vote out Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly. Usually commissioners are paired, Democrat and Republican, before being voted, but Reid said he agreed to vote O'Rielly by himself after getting McConnell's promise that Rosenworcel would also get a vote.

But that has not happened, and may not if Reid is correct.

Reid said McConnell promised to vote her this year, but that has yet to happen. "I've waited patiently for my friend to do the right thing," Reid said, seemingly more in sorrow than in anger. "I've held off for months coming to the floor....I held off hoping the Republican Leader would deliver on the pledge he gave to me."

But Reid said he had spoken with McConnell this week and the leaders said he would do it next year. "Mr. President, next year she's out of a job [he had suggested one reason he had agreed to vote O'Rielly against his better instincts was that he had been told O'Rielly was out of a job]. "Her career will basically be over because of my accepting my counterpart's word," he said.

Perhaps her FCC career, but the highly-regard Rosenworcel could almost certainly get a job, likely at a multiple of her public service salary, at a prestigious law firm, in Silicon Valley, or elsewhere.

But Reid's point was that it was not the way to treat a public servant "who works every day very hard trying to do the right thing for a very important part of our country."

Reid said McConnell had broken his word, but suggested there was still a way to repair the damage by moving on nomination. "So, I still expect him to live up to his commitment and get Commissioner Rosenworcel confirmed, he said.

Reid did point out that Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, had kept his word and advanced her nomination through the committee.

Neither Rosenworcel nor McConnell were available for comment.

“I was pleased to see Senator Reid’s comments today on the floor,"said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "Jessica Rosenworcel is an integral part of this Commission and should be confirmed. All nominees, no matter their party affiliation, deserve an up or down vote.”

In an FCC oversight hearing, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce  Committee, said it was past time for the Senate to confirm Rosenworcel, suggesting than that it was a promised confirmation that had yet to be honored by the other side of the aisle.

Rosenworcel's renomination was unanimously approved by the Commerce Committee late last year, but the full Senate has yet to vote.

The President re-nominated the Democratic commissioner for a new five-year term back in May 2015. Her current term expired in June of 2015, but she could serve until the end of 2016 without renomination.

Rosenworcel joined the commission in 2012, confirmed unanimously by the Senate on that occasion.

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.