Tom Wheeler, nominated to be the next chairman of the FCC, will have to wait a bit longer, as his nomination has been blocked by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) over an issue that came up during Wheeler’s confirmation hearing.
Cruz placed a hold on the nomination after having pressed Wheeler to say whether the FCC had the authority to implement a long-gestating proposal that would require campaign ad spots to include disclosure of their source of funding. Cruz and other Republicans have opposed the idea that the agency would impose such requirements. Legislation to require such disclosure has so far stalled out in Congress.
“The Senator is holding the nominee until he gets answers to his questions regarding Mr. Wheeler’s views on whether the FCC has the authority or intent to implement the requirements of the failed Congressional DISCLOSE Act,” a spokesman for Cruz said. “Mr. Wheeler had previously declined to give specific answers, but as he’s now expressed his readiness to revisit the Senator’s questions, the Senator hopes to communicate with him soon.”
The Senate was prepared to take up the nomination on Wednesday night, after it voted on legislation that reopened the government and raised the debt ceiling, but Cruz placed a hold on it then. He had threatened to hold up the nomination when Wheeler appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee for a confirmation hearing last summer.
If the situation is not resolved, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could still schedule a cloture vote, but it would require 60 votes. Also pending is the nomination of Michael P. O’ Rielly, a Republican, to fill another vacancy on the FCC, and his nomination was moved out of the Commerce Committee, but Democrats placed a hold on that nomination in response. The commission has been operating with just three members since the spring, with Mignon Clyburn serving as acting chairwoman.
Update: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement that he is “disappointed that several other highly qualified nominees were blocked this week. We need to get the government functioning as a whole again. We saw during the shutdown the difficulties experienced by families, businesses and the economy when the obstruction of a reckless few prevails and causes the lapse of important government services. If the government is going to fully function for the American people, we have to get these highly qualified nominees confirmed now.”