WASHINGTON — The Clinton administration is in need of another nominee to the Federal Communications Commission after agency official Regina Keeney asked that her name be withdrawn from consideration Wednesday.
Keeney said she would remain at the FCC in her current role as chief of the common carrier bureau, where she is responsible for administering telephone regulation at the agency. In announcing her withdrawal Wednesday, Keeney said she wanted to spend more time with her 5-year-old twins.
President Clinton nominated Keeney for the post in the previous Congress but the Senate failed to act on the choice before last November’s election. Under the Constitution, the administration would have had to renominate her during the 105th Congress.
Even before Keeney announced she would withdraw her name from consideration, her nomination appeared to be in trouble. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) was not eager to act on her appointment because he was upset that the Clinton administration had failed to consult him before putting Keeney forward. Lott was particu-larly upset about the nomination because Clinton picked Keeney for a Republican vacancy on the commission without consulting GOP members.
Bad connection for telcos
The powerful regional telephone companies also were not happy with Keeney’s nomination because she played a leading role in writing the rules for telco competition in the post-Telecommunications Act era. The telcos are now fighting those rules in federal court in Kansas, and there will be more skirmishes at the FCC. The regulations establish the ground rules for Baby Bell entry into the long-distance telephone business. They also set the terms for cable’s entry into the local telephone business.
Although Keeney is a former Republican staffer for the Senate Commerce Committee, some members of the Senate were also said to be concerned about Keeney’s party credentials after she worked for FCC chairman Reed Hundt for two years.
Since commissioner James Quello announced that he will step down by June 1, the administration must now fill two vacancies on the commission, one Democrat and another Republican. The leading contender for the Demo-cratic vacancy is FCC general counsel Bill Kennard.