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Tom Wheeler Gains Senate Committee Approval for FCC Chair

The Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday approved the nomination of Tom Wheeler as the next chairman of the FCC, although questions remain as to how quickly his selection will gain a floor vote.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, urged members to approve the nomination, but said it would be left up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to work out when it would get a vote of the Senate.

Republicans want Wheeler’s nomination paired with a Republican nominee for another vacancy on the commission, but so far none has put forward. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said that the White House would be making the nomination “very soon,” while Rockefeller vowed to move the Republican nominee through committee quickly.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) vowed to use “procedural means” to delay Wheeler’s nomination if he does not answer questions on whether the FCC will attempt “end running” and try to impose provisions of proposed campaign finance legislation that has otherwise stalled in Congress. The legislation, the DISCLOSE Act, would require that actual funders of campaign ad spots be labeled in such commercials, a prospect opposed by many Republican lawmakers. Cruz said that he asked Wheeler three times about the issue, but “his response in my judgment was insufficient. He dodged the question.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also suggested that Wheeler had to answer additional queries into how the agency will handle the issue of enforcement of broadcast decency standards.

If confirmed, Wheeler would succeed Julius Genachowski, who resigned in May after nearly four years. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn is serving as acting chair in the interim. The Republican nominee would succeed Robert McDowell, who resigned in April.

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