Report: Reid Blocking Mobile Now Over Rosenworcel Vote

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) appears to be holding up a Senate vote on the bipartisan Mobile Now Act in an effort to get Republicans to bring up the renomination of FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for a vote in the Senate.

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

According to a report in Politico, a spokesperson for the Senate Majority Leader, when asked about the hold, said: "Sen. Reid continues to expect Chairman [John] Thune and Sen. [Mitch] McConnell to keep their word and re-confirm Commissioner Rosenworcel."

Sen. Thune (R-S.D.) is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and co-sponsor of the bill with ranking member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). The bipartisan bill, which specifically targets the buildout of 5G mobile broadband, was the result of months of negotiations. Among the reasons for the tough negotiations on the bill were the tensions between licensed and unlicensed, as well as commercial and incumbent government users of the spectrum. Ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said he thought the bill had struck the right balance among those.

There had been an effort to fast-track the bill's passage in the Senate after it passed unanimously out of the Commerce Committee in March.

Reid took to the Senate floor April 21 to call for a vote on Rosenworcel, saying Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) 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 as a singleton after getting McConnell's promise that Rosenworcel would also get a vote.

Reid at the time did not appear to blame Thune for the holdup, saying: “To his credit, Senator Thune did everything he could to fulfill the commitment. He was having pressure not to do anything, I am sure, but he called his committee together. He is the chairman of the Commerce Committee. He reported Rosenworcel out to the Senate floor. There his authority stops. He doesn't have any power to do any more. He did what he felt he was obligated to do, and I felt he was obligated to do.”

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.

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.