Commerce Committee Sets O’Rielly Nomination Hearing


WASHINGTON — The Senate Commerce Committee announced it would hold a hearing Sept. 18 on the nomination of Michael O’Rielly to replace Robert McDowell, former commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission.

The committee will also use the hearing to vet Terrell McSweeny, nominee for commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission.

If O’Rielly’s nomination is successfully voted out of committee, it could pave the way for a full Senate vote on FCC chairman nominee Tom Wheeler, who has already been vetted and approved by the Commerce panel.

The committee almost certainly will not vote on either nomination separately given that if the incoming chairman’s nomination were held up — there was a veiled threat of a hold against Wheeler — the FCC would be knotted politically, with two Republican commissioners and two Democrats.

O’Rielly would complete the remainder of McDowell’s term, which runs through July 1, 2014, after which he would have to be renominated.

O’Rielly is policy adviser to Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) and was a top tech/telecom policy adviser to former Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) and former Rep. Tom Bliley (R-Va.). While the pick is the president’s, by custom the president usually refers to Republican congressional leaders for their party’s seat.

President Obama nominated McSweeny to fill the unexpired term of former chairman Jon Leibowitz, who exited in March. The chairmanship was filled from within, with the president naming commissioner Edith Ramirez to that post. McSweeny has been a domestic policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. She is a former attorney with O’Melveny & Myers and a graduate of Harvard and Georgetown Law.

McSweeney would bring the FTC to its full complement of five commissioners, joining fellow Democrats Ramirez and Julie Brill, and Republicans Maureen Ohlhausen and Joshua Wright.