FCC Noms Still No-Show


In the "no news is still news" department, the White House has yet to send up nominations for new FCC commissioners.

Washington was abuzz last week with the speculation, including here, that the administration was about to name telecom policy adviser Richard Russell and Tennessee utility commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate to fill those Republican seats. One is held by Kathleen Abernathy, who wants to leave, and the other is the open seat of former Chairman Michael Powell.

Though Russell and Tate are still thought to be the White House favorites, there now appears to be a hold-up.

The Washington Times was blaming reporters. "It is August, after all," the paper said in an op ed. "If the president announces his [FCC] choices this month, bored reporters probably will have plenty of time to scrutinize the records of the nominees. The Senate hearings on Mr. Bush's big nominee of the summer—Supreme Court pick John G. Roberts Jr.—won't begin until Sept. 6."

Another theory is that the White House is holding off until it also has a nominee for the Democratic seat held by Michael Copps, whose term, like that of Republican Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, has also expired (commissioners are allowed to serve until the end of the congressional session).

An aide at the Senate Commerce Committee favors that explanation, saying that the administration is aware that the committee likes to consider all its nominees at once.

Under Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the committee, which has to approve the appointments, has preferred that "bipartisanship" approach (no surprise from a chairman who is actually sharing that title with Democrat Daniel Inouye of Hawaii). 

For instance, four Republican nominees—to the Amtrak Reform Board and the NTSB—have not had hearings yet because the committee is waiting to get Democratic nominees sent up for those boards.

Stevens backs renominating Copps, though the commissioner's vocal opposition to media ownership and outsider-like talk criticizing "the usual suspects inside the Beltway [who] write the rules," could be too vocal for the administration's liking.