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Rosenworcel Could Get New Lease on FCC Life

Inside-Beltway buzz has POTUS possibly nominating former commissioner to new term

The buzz around D.C. for weeks—at least before the “James Comey memo” sucked all the oxygen out of any other inside-the-Beltway story — was that Pres. Donald Trump may soon nominate Jessica Rosenworcel to fill the open Democratic FCC seat.

And a third source confirmed that the buzz about her was buzzing, which is why I relay it here as at least credible chatter.

Pres. Trump withdrew Obama’s renomination, which if she had been seated would have left the FCC at a 2–2 political divide once FCC chairman Tom Wheeler exited.

Currently the FCC is down to only three members, two Republicans and a Democrat. The FCC can still render decisions on issues the lone Democrat disagrees with and has. But if Democrat Mignon Clyburn exits, the FCC will lack a quorum to vote on items, which makes it problematic.

Rosenworcel would need to be paired with a nominee for the Republican seat — the administration would not want to create a 2–2 tie — unless Mignon Clyburn exited. One name being floated is Brendan Carr, currently the acting FCC general counsel and formerly a staffer in the office of current chairman Ajit Pai. A source said the White House essentially said that Republican seat was Pai’s to recommend. Carr would be an obvious choice.

One signal that the administration could be looking to fill more vacancies in the communications regulation space was the nomination (May 16) of David Redl to head NTIA, essentially the FCC for government spectrum holders. He had his confirmation hearing this week. Rosenworcel was forced to exit at the end of last year after Congress failed to bring her renomination to a vote despite unanimous approval by the Senate Commerce Committee and support from both Democratic and Republican legislative leaders.

Her renomination got caught up in an unrelated political fight between the Republicans and Democrats over nominations in general.

Former Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had taken to the Senate in April 2016 to call for a vote on Rosenworcel’s renomination, in the process saying majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had broken his word to act on Rosenworcel after the Democrats agreed last year to vote out Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly. Usually commissioners are paired, Democrat and Republican, before being voted, but Reid said he agreed to vote O’Rielly by himself after getting McConnell’s promise that Rosenworcel would also get a vote. She did not.

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