Tom Wheeler will step down as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) if it “ensures” that the Senate confirms Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for another term, an FCC official confirmed to The Hill on Thursday.
Republicans and Democrats are working toward a deal that would confirm the Democratic commissioner, who has been in limbo for the past year. But Republicans want Wheeler to step down from the commission so that Democrats will no longer have the majority on the FCC.
The panel currently has three Democrats and two Republicans. Republicans want there to be space for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE to appointment another GOP member when he becomes president.
Party leadership has not confirmed that it has reached a deal on Rosenworcel’s confirmation. However, Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTo Build Back Better, we need a tax system where everyone pays their fair share Democrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda MORE (D-Nev.) told Politico earlier in the week that a deal was being worked out. Senate Commerce Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSchumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B GOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff MORE (R-S.D.) expressed hope to reporters that an agreement would be reached.
Time is running out for lawmakers to reach a deal, as senators could wrap up their work as early as Friday. If Rosenworcel isn't confirmed before the Senate adjourns, she will not return as a commissioner in 2017.
If Rosenworcel weren't confirmed, it would be possible for Wheeler — a Democrat — to remain on the panel until 2018, when his term expires. It’s almost certain that if he does, he will not be chairman, since Trump is expected to choose a Republican for the position.
A top Republican on the Commerce Committee suggested Thursday that Wheeler would like to move on from the agency.
“I think Mr. Wheeler would enjoy other pursuits,” Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Rep. Tim Ryan becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress Top Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal MORE (R-Miss.) told The Hill when asked about the likelihood of Wheeler staying at the FCC.
On CNBC earlier this week, Trump FCC landing team member Jeffrey Eisenach said that the next acting FCC chairman will be one of the Republican commissioners already in place, Ajit Pai or Mike O’Rielly.
The details of Pai’s reconfirmation are still being worked out as well. Pai is expected to take over as chairman after Trump is inaugurated.
Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnBig Tech should pay for damaging mental health Facebook to testify in Senate after report finds Instagram harms mental health House Oversight Democrat presses Facebook for 'failure' to protect users MORE (R-Tenn.) told reporters on Thursday that Rosenworcel should not be confirmed so that Trump could have his pick.