Harry Reid Moves to Bring Tom Wheeler’s FCC Nomination to a Vote

Ted Johnson
October 29, 2013

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) indicated that the Senate would vote this week on the nomination of Tom Wheeler to be the next chairman of the FCC, despite a hold that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) placed on President Obama’s pick to lead the agency.

Reid invoked cloture on Wheeler’s nomination on Monday night, a procedural move in which 60 votes are needed in the Senate to overcome a hold, or threatened filibuster, on a nomination. Reid suggested that a vote on a number of “crucial executive nominees” would happen this week, although he did not specify when.

In remarks on Tuesday, Reid said, “President Obama nominated Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, as well as Republican Michael O’Rielly to fill two vacant seats on the FCC. So what is stopping us from filling these vacancies with a bipartisan pair of nominees? The Senator from Texas has stalled this nomination because he opposes legislation proposed by Democrats in Congress that would require shadowy groups that spend millions on political advertising to disclose their donors.” It’s likely that O’Rielly’s nomination would come at the same time as Wheeler’s.

But those votes faced another potential obstacle after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) vowed to block all appointments until more hearings were scheduled on last year’s attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

Cruz has placed a hold on Wheeler’s nomination, as he seeks more specific answers to questions of whether the FCC would attempt to impose aspects of campaign finance legislation on its own. At issue is a proposal, advanced in legislation that stalled out in Congress, to require that ad spots include disclosure of the source of their funding. Cruz and other Senate Republicans oppose such a measure.

Cruz reportedly has scheduled a meeting with Wheeler, although the senator’s office declined to say when. “Our office has been working on a time to meet with Mr. Wheeler, we are hopeful that will be possible in the near future and look forward to having our questions answered,” press secretary Catherine Frazier said.

The FCC has been short two members since the departure of chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioner Robert McDowell in the spring. Mignon Clyburn has served as acting chairwoman in the interim.

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