Senate Delay on FCC Commissioners Shows Need for New Rules

    Media Contact
  • Dale Eisman

The Senate’s slow walk to Tuesday’s confirmation of two new members of the Federal Communications Commission strengthens the case for new rules reforming the filibuster and stripping individual senators of the power to delay or block action on both nominations and legislation, Common Cause said today.

“The protracted confirmation process illustrates everything that is wrong with Washington,” said Michael Copps, special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.

Tom Wheeler, the new FCC chairman, and new commissioner Michael O’Rielly “were screened and endorsed by a bipartisan majority in the Commerce Committee,” Copps said. “The delays they experienced speak again to the crying need for rules reform. It’s past time for the Senate to behave like a responsible legislative body, one in which presidential nominees are thoroughly but promptly scrutinized and either confirmed or defeated based on their fitness for office.”

Wheeler’s nomination has been ready for a floor vote since July but action on both him and O’Rielly was delayed for weeks when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, used a Senate custom to put a “hold” on Wheeler. Cruz asked Wheeler for assurances that the FCC will not use its power to force broadcasters to publicly disclose the people and groups paying for political advertising.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when a minority of the minority party in the Senate can paralyze government,” said Copps, a former FCC commissioner.

Cruz lifted his hold on Wheeler after a private meeting on Monday, avoiding a potential filibuster that would have extended debate and required the nominee to get 60 votes for confirmation. Both Wheeler and O’Rielly were then confirmed unanimously.

‘I congratulate Tom Wheeler and Michael O’Rielly on their confirmations,” Copps said. “The Federal Communications Commission confronts many pressing priorities, and will benefit from their combined years of expertise and public service. The full Commission should now pursue priorities include promoting media diversity and localism; achieving universal, affordable telecommunications, and making political ad disclosure through S. 317 a reality.

“Today I also recognize Mignon Clyburn’s impressive tenure as acting chairwoman. She oversaw strong public interest measures to rein in usurious inmate calling rates, fight media monopolization by reforming the UHF discount, and enhance choice in the wireless marketplace with 700MHz interoperability. Consumers are better off because of her leadership. Her service was extraordinary.”

See More: Media & Democracy