What a difference four days makes.
On Jan. 2, former Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel tweeted the photograph at left, accompanied by the note: Cleaning out office and finding unexpected joy in some stashed away notes my kids have offered over last few years.
Now, the now-ex commissioner, who joined the FCC in May 2012 and was renominated by President Obama for a second term three years later — only to have Senate Republicans block any renomination hearing prior to the end of the most recent Congress — may wish to keep those moving boxes at bay.
She could end up back in her old office, or at least a different office in the same building, should GOP leaders in the upper body of Congress decide to act on President Obama’s surprising re-renomination of Rosenworcel made Wednesday (1/4).
Sen. John Thune, who chairs the powerful Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, may hold the key that would be given back to Rosenworcel, allowing for her return.
But, there’s a catch: If Rosenworcel returns, it would happen at the same time a fifth FCC Commissioner would be select by GOP leaders. This could involve the nomination of a Republican Chairman, or the nomination of a fellow Commissioner, as current Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai is widely expected to serve as interim Chairman and could get the permanent nod.
In a statement sent to Broadcasting & Cable magazine, Thune said, “I am open to the idea of confirming her later this year, as long as we preserve the new Republican majority on the commission in the process.”
As it stands, the Commission will become a 2-1 GOP-majority body come Jan. 20, when President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in to office and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler officially exits.
Rules state that the FCC cannot become a 4-1 GOP body. Thus, Republicans will be maxed out at three Commissioners. As Rosenworcel was seen as the swing vote involving the now-scuttled set-top box proposal from Wheeler, GOP leaders may be more willing to bring her back — as she’d been seen as someone eager to cross the aisle and work in a non-partisan manner. The alternative is another Democrat … or an individual who is not registered as a Republican.
While Thune has been highly critical of the FCC under Wheeler and chastised him for the secretive nature in which he sought approval of his STB plan, he has been supportive of Rosenworcel.
In Oct. 2015, she sailed through her reconfirmation hearing. Then, by May 2016, things stalled.
Thune reminded Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., that a “hold” was not placed on Rosenworcel’s renomination. He said, “We reported favorably out of this committee her nomination, and its action on the floor is going to be up to our two leaders, who I’m told discussed this at some point. I was not a party to that conversation, so I’m not someone who can recall the discussions that occurred, but we have, I think, at least at this level, done our part to try and move her nomination forward.”
Now, Thune holds the power to move her renomination forward.