Rosenworcel Confirmation Appears to Be History

Despite attempts at last-minute deal-making and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's pledge to exit the same day there was a decision, the Senate went home for the holidays without a vote to reconfirm Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

The Senate will continue to gavel in for brief, pro forma sessions to prevent recess appointments, and theoretically she could be voted on unanimous consent (UC), a fast-track maneuver, but that is not expected to happen given that several holds had been placed on her nomination during the dealmaking and a UC vote has to be, well, unanimous.

That means Donald Trump gets to pick a new chair and a Democratic nominee, and a Republican if he goes with one of the two sitting Republican commissioners--Ajit Pai or Michael O'Rielly--as the new chair.

Rosenworcel was nominated to a new term by President Obama and approved unanimously by the Senate Commerce Committee and placed on the Senate Calendar for a vote over a year ago. But due to some infighting between Republicans and Democrats over nominations, Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell never scheduled her for a vote on the floor, much to the unhappiness of Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Rosenworcel will have to exit at the end of this month (technically just before the new Congress is seated in early January), after which the commission will be at a 2-2 tie until FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler exits.

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.