WASHINGTON — The long confirmation process for former National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Tom Wheeler as the next chair of the Federal Communications Commission may be coming to a close.
Multichannel News confirmed last week that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was in the process of setting up a face-to-face meeting with Wheeler; one FCC source said Oct. 29 was the most likely date.
If the senator likes what he hears at the meeting, the FCC could finally get a new chairman and Republican member.
Cruz put a hold on Wheeler’s nomination over the issue of political ad disclosures. Cruz does not want the FCC to use its authority to boost disclosures of the funders of political ads, something Democrats sought after their failure to do so via the DISCLOSE Act.
Wheeler has at least twice responded to Cruz’s concerns, but the senator said his answers were insufficient both times — at Wheeler’s nomination hearing and in a follow-up written answer.
Cruz’s communications director, Sean Rushton, said last week that Wheeler had expressed a readiness to “revisit the senator’s questions,” and that Cruz “hoped to communicate with him soon.”
But don’t look for Wheeler to commit to forgo boosting disclosures, over which the FCC clearly has authority. One FCC source theorized that, like the government shutdown threat, the White House would not want to set a precedent of using holds to extract conditions from nominees.
A single senator can hold up a nomination indefinitely and for any, or no, reason.
The FCC has been at three commissioners — down from five — since May with the departures of FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and Republican commissioner Robert McDowell.
The nomination of McDowell’s replacement, Michael O’Rielly, is also in limbo since the Democrats will not vote to confirm him until the hold on Wheeler is lifted and both can get full Senate votes. Both have been voted out of the Senate Commerce Committee, O’Rielly by unanimous consent and Wheeler with only one no vote — by Cruz.