Rosenworcel’s Fate Uncertain as Senate Nears End of Session

December 8, 2016–The fate of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel’s future at the FCC appeared uncertain today as the Senate neared the end of its session, even with a pledge by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to resign immediately if the Senate agrees to confirm her. Ms. Rosenworcel must be confirmed by the Senate for a new term before it adjourns or she will have to step down.

Mr. Wheeler told Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) earlier this week that he would be willing to leave the Commission immediately if it would clear the way for Ms. Rosenworcel’s confirmation, an FCC official said today. But Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R., S.D.) believes it will be difficult to get Ms. Rosenworcel through at this late stage given the fact that a cloture motion would be necessary because holds on her nomination prevent it being considered by unanimous consent, according to an aide.

However, the Senate is expected to still be in session in the early hours of Dec. 10 to vote on bills that include the continuing appropriations resolution to keep the government funded through part of next year (see separate story). If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) filed for cloture on Ms. Rosenworcel’s nomination today, the Senate could vote Dec. 10.

There had been speculation earlier this week that Mr. McConnell and Mr. Reid would reach an agreement on Ms. Rosenworcel’s nomination. Sen. McConnell’s office said late today that there was no announcement on that matter, while Sen. Reid’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, doesn’t want the Senate to vote on the nomination of Ms. Rosenworcel for another term, according to an aide. “Senator Johnson supports efforts to ensure a 2-1 Republican majority at the FCC so that we can begin to roll back the burdensome regulations it recently issued,” a spokesman said today. “In particular, he looks forward to working with the Republicans at the FCC and his colleagues in the Senate to reverse President Obama’s harmful regulations on broadband service providers that treat the Internet as a public utility.” Asked if the senator had put a hold on Ms. Rosenworcel’s nomination, the spokesman replied, “Senator Johnson is aware of several holds by his colleagues, so has not needed to place his own hold yet.” He said he did not know who had placed the holds. – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com