WASHINGTON — The White House officially forwarded to the Senate Friday its nominees to fill two vacancies at the Federal Communications Commission. As expected, the two nominees are congressional staffer Howard Furchtgott-Roth and FCC general counsel William Kennard (Daily Variety, April 14).
It’s now up to the Senate to confirm Kennard and Furchtgott-Roth before they can move into their eighth-floor offices at the FCC.
A third nominee, Justice Dept. official Michael Powell, is expected to be forwarded to Congress by the White House once his background check is completed, said a Hill staffer. The routine investigation, which all federal nominees must undergo, is expected to take another month. Powell is the son of the retired U.S. Army General Colin Powell.
An aide to Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Friday that the confirmation hearing for Kennard and Furchtgott-Roth may be delayed until Powell’s nomination also is cleared by the White House.
Powell is expected to fill the vacancy created by FCC commissioner Rachelle Chong’s departure. Under current rules, the White House is allowed to nominate three members of its own party to the FCC.
Kennard will fill the Democratic seat scheduled to be vacated next month by commissioner James Quello. For the past 23 years, Quello has been a staunch supporter of broadcasters’ interests and his departure will have a significant impact on the industry’s influence at the FCC. Although Kennard once worked at the National Assn. of Broadcasters, he has worked for broadcasting nemesis chairman Reed Hundt for the past three years. Kennard is well-liked and respected among industry lobbyists who say his intelligence and independence will serve the FCC well.
With rumors circling Washington that Hundt may resign this summer, Kennard could be a likely candidate to take over the powerful chairmanship of the agency.
Furchtgott-Roth, who is assuming a vacant Republican slot at the five-member FCC, is more of a wild card. For the past several years he has served as the chief economist for House Commerce Committee. Some insiders worry that Furchtgott-Roth will fail to make the transition from staff policy wonk to savvy politician.