Senate panel approves Wheeler to lead FCC

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Tuesday advanced Tom Wheeler's nomination to lead the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to the Senate floor.

The panel approved his nomination by a voice vote, although there were scattered "no" votes from Republicans.

President Obama nominated Wheeler, a venture capitalist and former industry lobbyist, for the post in May. 

But it could be months before the full Senate votes on the nomination. Sen. John ThuneJohn ThuneWeek ahead: Senate defense bill faces delay GOP senator: It is in Trump's 'best interest' to sign Russia sanctions bill Sunday shows preview: Scaramucci makes TV debut as new communication chief MORE (R-S.D.), the committee's ranking member, said he expects the Senate will only vote on Wheeler along with a nominee for the open Republican seat on the commission. 

The White House has yet to name the Republican nominee, although Thune told The Hill that Republican Senate leaders submitted a name eight weeks ago. Thune declined to disclose the Republicans' choice, but speculation is currently focused on Michael O'Reilly, a staffer for Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThis week: ObamaCare repeal vote looms over Senate Week ahead: Senate defense bill faces delay Week ahead: Uncertainty surrounds ObamaCare repeal vote MORE (R-Texas). 

Another potential roadblock to Wheeler's chairmanship is the issue of political disclosure. Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzGOP wrestles with soaring deductibles in healthcare bill Cruz: Tax reform chances ‘drop significantly’ if healthcare fails Ex-CBO directors defend against GOP attacks on ObamaCare analysis MORE (R-Texas) threatened to block the nomination unless Wheeler vowed not to require more disclosure about the groups behind political TV ads.

At his confirmation hearing last month, Wheeler said he would need to study the issue more carefully before reaching a conclusion.

"If he continues to refuse to answer that question, I may well support using other procedural means to delay this nomination," Cruz said. 

Before Obama named Wheeler, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerOvernight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers MORE (D-W.Va.) had expressed concern about his ties to the industries he would be in charge of regulating. But at Tuesday's session, Rockefeller said Wheeler is "well-qualified to be FCC chairman, with a distinguished career in the communications industry." 

Until Wheeler is confirmed, the agency will continue to be led by Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn.