Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) has essentially given up on a floor vote for Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel’s confirmation for a second term.
He said that a vote before her term ends on Dec. 31 is extremely unlikely despite FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s conditional pledge to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to step down immediately if it would expedite her reconfirmation. Chairman Wheeler is required by law to step down as chairman of the commission when President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20, but his term as a commissioner doesn’t end until June 2018. Before this week, he hadn’t been specific about his plans under the next administration. But his promise to stop down is being viewed as too little, too late. “If in fact he has made those representations, we’re just finding out about them now,” Chairman Thune said, adding that it seems Chairman Wheeler “wasn’t in any hurry to get out of there.” “My sense is that we’re kind of up against the clock now,” Chairman Thune said. “And it’s going to be very hard, even if Wheeler was agreeable to stepping down, to be able to get all this done between now and the time we go out.” “Even if they clear this, this is going to take a cloture vote,” Chairman Thune said, referring to a procedural maneuver that would bypass the objection of a senator or senators and takes several days. “A lot of our members are probably going to object to this.”
Without Senate confirmation for a second term, Rosenworcel’s tenure at the agency will conclude at the end of December. Chairman Thune said it’s still possible Commissioner Rosenworcel could be nominated again in January 2017, perhaps as a part of a deal to reconfirm Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.