The Senate Commerce Committee approved the nomination of Tom Wheeler to become FCC chairman Tuesday, but not without some drama and the threat of one senator to delay final confirmation. Also approved by voice vote were a cybersecurity bill backed by cable and telco operators and a violence research bill that has the blessing of broadcast, cable and studio interests.
Senate Republicans would have preferred that the committee delay a vote on Wheeler until the White House had nominated a Republican to replace Robert McDowell, a point ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.) made at the hearing.
It has become custom, though not a rule, that the committee pair votes on FCC nominees, but Rockefeller said that was not happening on his committee. He said the Senate leadership could decide to pair a full-Senate vote, but that Wheeler was qualified and should be favorably reported.
That happened, with one "no" vote from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Cruz said he had not gotten a sufficient answer from Wheeler on the issue of whether the FCC could use its authority to what he and other Republicans would consider an end-run around Congress by boosting political ad disclosures, something Congress has failed to do with the yet-to-pass DISCLOSE Act.
Cruz did not use the H word (hold), but did say Wheeler had failed to answer the question three times. "If he continues to refuse to answer that question, I may well support using procedural means to delay this nomination until he answers the very reasonable question that has been posed."
The Republicans made their point, which included culling the Wheeler nomination from a group of others that were initially approved during Tuesday's executive session.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also said he wanted Wheeler to elaborate on his theory of indecency regulation before the nomination moves to the full Senate.