Nomination Holds Keep FCC At A Bare Minimum
December 27, 2011 at 7:01 AM (PT)
Sen. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA) continues to block President OBAMA's two nominees to the FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (FCC), which forces the five-member board to start the new year with the bare minimum of members needed to take official action. THE HILL reports that replacements are need for Republican MEREDITH ATTWELL BAKER, who resigned in MAY to join COMCAST and Democratic Commissioner MICHAEL COPPS, who retires at the end of the year.
Pres. OBAMA has nominated AJIT PAI and JESSICA ROSENWORCEL to serve on the commission, but GRASSLEY has promised to place a hold on their nominations if -- until the FCC releases internal documents related to its review of wireless company LIGHTSQUARED. That leaves the FCC with three active Commissioners. "So if one of the members is out of town or disabled, the commission is unable to act," ANDREW SCHWARTZMAN, policy director for public interest law firm the MEDIA ACCESS PROJECT, said.
Yet others -- including SCHWARTZMANN -- believe a downsized FCC could be more responsive. PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE legal director HAROLD FELD said the political dynamic on the commission would remain the same with or without OBAMA's nominees -- and that the vacancies will mean "less room for the backroom negotiating." With only three commissioners, Chairman GENACHOWSKI would only need to win the support of one of the other members to push through a policy.
The FCC is not expected to take up any particularly contentious or partisan issues in the next several months. Pending issues include VERIZON's spectrum deal with a group of cable companies and an update of media ownership rules.