After a delay of more than six weeks, the Obama White House finally made it official. The President’s long time friend, law school classmate and top communications advisor during the Obama campaign for president, Julius Genachowski, will be the next FCC chairman as soon as the Democratic-led Senate commerce committee confirms him. But as NATPE's Washington Counsel Mickey Gardner explains, there are still more seats to fill at the FCC…
While chairman-designee Genachowski had been the expected nominee since well before inauguration day, things sometimes move slowly in Washington and that’s especially the case as the Obama White House vets candidates for formal nomination and Senate confirmation.
At the FCC, the vetting process has been particularly slow. The vacant Republican seat previously held by commissioner Debbie Tate is still empty; and the Democratic seat currently held by commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, whose term ended June 30, 2008, is apparently still up for grabs. In addition, the seat held by the FCC’s solo Republican commissioner, Rob McDowell, is expected to soon be in play since McDowell’s term officially concludes in four months on June 30.
Typically, presidents “package” their appointments to the FCC so that there is bipartisan support for the entire slate of nominees, both Republicans and Democrats. But, as of the White House’s March 3 announcement about Julius Genachowski, there is no official indication as to who will be designated to fill the vacant Tate seat, the soon to be vacant Adelstein seat or the possible third vacant seat which could occur when commissioner McDowell’s term ends.
A strong possibility for one of these seats is Mignon Clyburn, who currently is a Public Utility commissioner for South Carolina. Ms. Clyburn’s father is the House majority whip, congressman James Clyburn (D-SC).
While it is probable that the chairman-designee Genachowski will secure quick approval from the Senate commerce committee chaired by Democratic Senator John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-WV), it could be a much more protracted period before the other new members of President Obama’s FCC are nominated and confirmed by the Senate. In fact, in view of the extensive security and background checks being conducted by the White House personnel office, it could be well into 2009 before the entire Obama team is in place at the FCC.
In the meantime, the very energetic acting FCC chairman Michael Copps is determined to use the current 2-1 Democratic majority at the commission to clean house when it comes to a long list of unresolved issues left behind by former FCC chairman, Republican Kevin Martin.