Senate Dems block one of their own from FCC post


Two top Senate Democrats are blocking the confirmation of a fellow Democrat, Jessica Rosenworcel, to the Federal Communications Commission.

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) filed a hold, or formal objection, to block Rosenworcel’s confirmation.

It’s the latest obstacle in efforts to confirm Rosenworcel to a second term. Her confirmation has been held up by Republicans for months, and now the opposition from lawmakers of her own party makes those prospects even more difficult.

{mosads}If Rosenworcel is not confirmed by the end of the year, she will have to step down from commission.

Markey “wants an FCC commissioner who is unequivocally committed to pro-consumer, pro-competition policies,” a Senate Democratic aide told the Washington Post. “Recent actions from Commissioner Rosenworcel have called that commitment into question.”

Rosenworcel apparently angered the Democrats by not backing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposals for reforming the TV cable box market and expanding broadband in rural areas.

In October, Wheeler postponed a vote on the controversial cable set top box proposal after Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Mike O’Reilly opposed the measure. Wheeler could not secure a third vote from the remaining Democratic Commissioners to pass the proposal. Rosenworcel reportedly also had concerns over the proposal.

The hold also comes amid a fight between FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Republicans over his agenda for the agency and is likely to hamstring Wheeler’s efforts to move other items.

Republicans earlier this week wrote to Wheeler, urging him to avoid moving forward on any “controversial” policy items until after the presidential transition.

Wheeler reluctantly yielded to those calls, dropping almost all of the items on the agenda a day before the FCC’s monthly meeting.

During Thursday’s open meeting, Wheeler slammed Republicans.

“It is tragic that 1.3 million Americans who are blind and millions more who are visually impaired will not be able to enjoy expanded video description. They deserve better from this commission,” Wheeler said, referencing one of policy items.

“All of these matters are so called ‘controversial’ because they are opposed principally by the largest incumbent firms in the sector. I believe the public interest should prevail.”

Wyden joined Wheeler in expressing frustration with Republicans.

“Tom Wheeler, was forced to cancel a vote during their Open Meeting due to the inaction of one acting Commissioner. That vote would have implemented a program to help rural Americans receive wireless broadband internet,” Wyden said in a statement.

If Rosenworcel isn’t confirmed, Wheeler could opt to stay on the Commission until his term ends in 2018 and join fellow Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

Wheeler’s status as chairman though would be in the hands of the Trump administration. Wheeler said on Thursday that he has not had any communications with the President-elect’s transition team.

Tags Ed Markey Ron Wyden

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