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. 

{mosads}But it could be months before the full Senate votes on the nomination. Sen. John Thune (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 Cornyn (R-Texas). 

Another potential roadblock to Wheeler’s chairmanship is the issue of political disclosure. Sen. Ted Cruz (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 Rockefeller (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. 

Tags Jay Rockefeller John Cornyn John Thune Ted Cruz

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