A group of senators is pushing President Joe Biden to name Jessica Rosenworcel permanent chair of the Federal Communications Commission, but a letter they sent to the White House last week makes no mention of nominating a third Democrat to the agency.
Filling that last seat would likely be the only way a Democratic chair, whoever it is, can advance non-bipartisan items like restoring network neutrality rules.
Rosenworcel has been acting chair since soon after Biden took over last January.
According to a copy of the letter, first reported by B+C/Multichannel News sister publication TV Technology, the senators — from 17 states and comprising Democrats and one independent — said that without a permanent chair helping hand out billions in broadband aid, the administration was risking its major broadband goals.
They spoke of Rosenworcel's long experience, the fact that she has been approved on a bipartisan basis when confirmed as a commissioner and that it would take months to confirm someone else as chair. They even suggested that were Biden to pick a different chair, the lengthy process or hiring staff and implementing an agenda would lead to “indecision and gridlock.”
The senators urged Biden to nominate Rosenworcel as permanent chair “as soon as possible.”
While the president could just name her chairman, her tenure is up at the end of the year unless she is renominated, so it would make more sense to nominate her for a new term.
Washington watchers remain a bit perplexed by the ongoing lack of a permanent chair with Rosenworcel in the seat.
Initial delays were thought to involve a decision between Rosenworcel and current commissioner Geoffrey Starks. Starks had the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose leading figure, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), helped elect Biden with his key endorsement in South Carolina’s Democratic primary. (Clyburn is the father of former acting FCC chair Mignon Clyburn).
But another name for chair has also been talked about inside the Beltway recently: Catherine Sandoval, former FCC staffer and currently a member of the California Public Utilities Commission, the first Hispanic female in that post. She would also be the first Hispanic FCC chair if the president chose her.
As to why no mention of the open Democratic seat in the senators' letter, one former high-ranking FCC official suggested that may be because it would be tough to get two Democrats nominated and confirmed by year-end.
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.
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