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Senate gives Hundt approval to top FCC

Reed Hundt was confirmed late Friday by the U.S. Senate to be chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

The confirmation ended six weeks of stalemate between the White House and Senate Republicans, who had stalled the Hundt nomination in a bid to pressure President Clinton into filling Republican slots at key government agencies.

It’s believed Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kansas) allowed the Hundt vote to move forward in exchange for a White House pledge for action on GOP positions. One Republican nomination that could come soon is the candidate to fill the lone remaining FCC vacancy. The odds-on favorite is Rachelle Chong, a telecommunications attorney from San Francisco.

Hundt, a 45-year-old Democrat who is a lifelong friend of Vice President Al Gore, assumes the full-time FCC chairmanship post that has been empty since Republican Al Sikes resigned in January. The interim chairmanship was held by Democrat James Quello, who now returns to his role of commissioner.

Hundt takes the reins of an agency that’s charged with advising Congress on telecommunications policy and regulating industries such as broadcasters and the telephone companies. FCC manpower has been stretched to the limit in the last year implementing the massive 1992 cable TV reregulation bill passed by Congress.

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