White House Deal Could Save Adelstein


Reports of commissioner Jonathan Adelstein’s imminent departure from the Federal Communications Commission might have been premature.

Adelstein’s term expired last year, and the Democrat from South Dakota is required to leave when Congress adjourns in a few weeks.

But a deal between the White House and Senate leaders could result in a new five-year term for the former aide to Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) after so many had written him off.

The Senate Commerce Committee has tentatively scheduled a Nov. 18 hearing on Adelstein’s reappointment. In all, the agreement covers about 85 White House nominees, including federal judges.

“They made that deal before the election, and they think they need to keep it,” a Senate aide said Friday.

The exact details of the agreement won’t be known until early next week. It might turn out that Adelstein won’t make the list.

Senate Republicans want to include Adelstein in a package that would include a Republican nominee for the five-member FCC, which is now under GOP control by one vote.

“We’d certainly like to pair a [Republican] and a [Democrat]. I don’t know who the Republican would be,” a Senate source said.

The term of Republican FCC member Kathleen Abernathy expired earlier in the year, but she is allowed to remain at the FCC until the end of next year unless a replacement has been confirmed.

It was not clear whether Abernathy is under consideration at the White House for reappointment.

Possible GOP replacements include Becky Armendariz Klein, former chairwoman of the Texas Public Utility Commission when President Bush was Texas governor; and William Bailey, a communications-policy adviser to Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Earlier in the week, FCC chairman Michael Powell told reporters he was in no hurry to leave the agency. Powell -- who joined the FCC in 1997 and became chairman in 2001 -- may remain at the commission until his term expires in 2007.

But a senior Republican communications attorney said Powell is expected to leave within six to eight months, calling his recent comments about staying an attempt to avoid lame-duck status.

GOP FCC member Kevin Martin is considered a candidate to replace Powell as chairman.