Sen. Thune Open to Confirming Rosenworcel

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has signaled he would be open to confirming Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to another term on the Federal Communications Commission but also says the new President should get to nominate who he wants to serve on that commission.

President Barack Obama this week resubmitted Rosenworcel's renomination to the new Senate after the old one failed to hold a floor vote on her reconfirmation and she was forced to exit by Jan. 3, when the new Congress was seated.

Rosenworcel has cleared and closed down her office, an FCC source confirmed, but could always move back in.

In an emailed statement to B&C, Thune, whose committee holds the confirmation hearing for FCC nominees, said: "I am open to the idea of confirming her later this year, as long as we preserve the new Republican majority on the commission in the process.”

Related: Groups Want Rosenworcel Out, Then Back In

Currently the FCC is at a 2-2 political tie but will be a 2-1 Republican majority once chairman Tom Wheeler departs Jan. 20.

“I publicly supported Commissioner Rosenworcel’s confirmation last Congress, and I continue to appreciate her service," he said, adding: "That said, now that we are just days away from Inauguration, I believe the president-elect deserves to be able to nominate the commissioners he wants to serve."

President-elect Trump will get to fill two seats at least, that of the exiting chairman—either with a new chairman if he goes outside the agency or a new commissioner if he taps one of the current Republicans to be chairman—and a Democrat for Rosenworcel's seat.

One theory has been that Rosenworcel could be part of a package deal to smooth the way with Dems for some of Trump's more controversial administration picks, though how much smoothing can be done given the Democratic pushback on some of those remains to be seen. 

Thune's committee unanimously recommended Rosenworcel for full-Senate confirmation following a hearing last fall, but a fight between Republicans and Democrats over confirmations generally prevented her from getting a full Senate vote despite that bipartisan support.

Former Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had taken to the Senate floor last April to call for a vote on Rosenworcel's renomination, in the process 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 by himself after getting McConnell's promise that Rosenworcel would also get a vote.

She did not.

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.