FCC Nominees Could Be Confirmed by Senate Tonight

Executive nomination document suggests they are being 'hotlined' for UC vote as early as Wednesday

Executive nomination document suggests they are being 'hotlined' for vote as early as Wednesday

At press time, it looked as though the Senate could fast-track a vote on FCC nomninees, potentially approving them as early as this evening if there are no objections.

Republican nominee Michael O'Rielly has not had a vote in the committee, but according to an e-mail announcing the so-called "hotlining" of the nominations, Tom Wheeler's nomination as the new chair would be called up and confirmed by the full Senate, so long as there are no objections (by so-called “unanimous consent”) and O'Rielly's discharge affirmatively from the committee and confirmation would be rolled into one similar UC vote.

That will depend on whether there are any objections. A UC motion can't proceed if there is a single no vote.

Democrat Wheeler is being nominated to a five-year term beginning july 1, 2013, while O'Rielly only gets to fill out the unfilled remainder of Republican Robert McDowell's term, which ends June 30. 2014, after which O'Rielly will need to be renominated.

The FCC is currently at three members, two Democrats and one Republican, led by acting chair Mignon Clyburn. The FCC is currently shuttered except for exempt employees--including the commissioners--but the Senate, in addition to possibly voting on the commissioners, is expected to vote to reopen the government, with the House following suit and the President signing the bill. The FCC could be open as soon as Thursday (Oct. 17).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has suggested he might try to block Wheeler’s nomination, but his office had not commented on that threat at press time or whether he would object to the UC move.

There have been some Hill complaints about the FCC shutdown and its impact on a backlog of decisions on applications and deals and upcoming spectrum auctions. The Senate may be looking to get a full complement of commissioners and new chairman in ASAP to help deal with that.

The Senate had been expected to move the nominations, barring any snag, by the end of the month, but the "hotline" plan came as a surprise to some FCC watchers.