FCC chairman willing to resign to get colleague confirmed

FCC chairman willing to resign to get colleague confirmed
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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.

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The panel currently has three Democrats and two Republicans. Republicans want there to be space for Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border 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 ReidHarry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Sanders hires veteran progressive operative to manage 2020 bid Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency MORE (D-Nev.) told Politico earlier in the week that a deal was being worked out. Senate Commerce Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePolls: Hiking estate tax less popular than taxing mega wealth, income Will Trump sign the border deal? Here's what we know Key GOP senator pitches Trump: Funding deal a 'down payment' on wall 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 WickerHillicon Valley: Telecom industry to fundraise for Senate chair ahead of privacy hearing | Report finds apps sharing personal data with Facebook | DNC offers campaigns cybersecurity tips Telecom industry to throw fundraiser for Senate chair the night before data privacy hearing Trump signs executive order to boost AI technology 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 BlackburnTrump’s new Syria timetable raises concern among key anti-ISIS allies Dem lawmaker invites Parkland survivor to attend State of the Union Bipartisan senators press Trump for strategy to protect Syrian Kurds MORE (R-Tenn.) told reporters on Thursday that Rosenworcel should not be confirmed so that Trump could have his pick.