La. Senator Lifts Hold on FCC Nominee


Washington— Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has agreed to stop blocking the Federal Communications Commission nomination of Robert McDowell after the White House agreed to spend more money on cleaning up Gulf Coast regions damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Landrieu communications director Adam Sharp said the senator lifted her hold late last Tuesday when the White House agreed to seek $2.2 billion in funding to help reconstruct levees that prevent storm flooding.

Since early April, Landrieu had been pressuring the White House to seek $4.1 billion. But Sharp said the $2.2 billion commitment was sufficient progress to persuade Landrieu to allow McDowell’s nomination to advance to the Senate floor.

“As they gave some ground, we did too,” Sharp said.

McDowell, a Washington telecommunications lawyer, was nominated in an effort to give Republicans a 3-2 majority at the FCC. The Senate Commerce Committee approved his appointment in March shortly after a quick hearing.

“This is great news that Sen. Landrieu has lifted her hold. We hope that Mr. McDowell can move through the Senate and be confirmed and begin his important work at the FCC,” a spokesman for Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said last Thursday.

It is possible that other senators are blocking a vote, though. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has reportedly placed a hold on McDowell related to universal service funding. Rockefeller’s office is neither confirming nor denying those reports.

Each senator can block presidential nominations without cause, and can do so anonymously. Often it takes a supermajority — 60 votes — to overcome obstructionist maneuvers in the 100-member upper chamber.

Since last March, the FCC has been evenly divided 2-2 between Republicans and Democrats, hindering chairman Kevin Martin’s ability to advance an agenda or process media and telecommunications mergers. As a result, the $16.9 billion acquisition of Adelphia Communications Corp. by Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corp. has languished at the FCC for 327 days (as of April 27), a period of time involving a cable merger that does not have a recent precedent.