Kerry Win Could Extend FCC Gridlock


If Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is elected president Tuesday, action at the Federal Communications Commission could come to a grinding halt, producing a policy lull that could run beyond 2005, according to a report released Monday by Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc.

Analyst Blair Levin, a former FCC chief of staff, wrote that leadership turnover at the agency, coupled with stalled nominations in the Senate, could produce a deadlock that would prevent the FCC from issuing new policies on a range of topics.

“Such a scenario could go for some time, likely limiting the work the FCC could accomplish in 2005 and maybe beyond,” Levin wrote in a detailed report handicapping policy moves at the FCC if either Kerry or President George W. Bush wins the election.

Levin outlined the following scenario if Kerry triumphs:

FCC chairman Michael Powell would leave the agency. Kerry would likely name FCC member Michael Copps, a Democrat, chairman, at least on an interim basis.

When Congress adjourns later this year, FCC member Jonathan Adelstein, a Democrat, would leave the agency because his term expired months ago but he was allowed to remain in office until the 108th Congress adjourned.

That would mean Copps would be running an agency along with two Republicans, Kevin Martin and Kathleen Abernathy.

To prevent Copps from gaining two Democratic votes, a Republican-controlled Senate would likely bottle up Kerry’s FCC appointments not just for policy reasons, but also for political payback to Senate Democrats who killed controversial Bush judicial appointments.

“If Sen. Kerry is elected,” Levin wrote, “we could have nomination wars that move beyond judges to other posts, and it would not surprise us to see a Republican Senate at least delay appointments to the [FCC].”