The full Senate agreed by unanimous consent Thursday to confirm Julius Genachowski as the next chairman of the FCC. Also approved was the re-nomination of Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell.
Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) read out only the numbers of the
nominations corresponding to their numbers on the day's calendar.
Genachowski was calendar number 251, McDowell 252. The process took
only seconds and followers would have had to know their calendar number on the day's agenda to know they had been confirmed.
said that it was too bad that he could not give individual recognition
to the nominees beyond simply reading their names, since he said they
were people who would "change lives."
Both had smooth confirmation hearings and swift votes of
approval from the committee.
McDowell's vote in the Senate Commerce Committee was unanimous; Genachowski's
was 24-1, with only Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) voting against.
But a full
Senate vote had been held up for more than a week by senators reportedly
with some remaining issues over answers the nominees had provided to written
questions submitted after the hearing. A single senator can put a hold on a
nominee and prevent a vote.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had been working since
last week to get those holds lifted and the president's FCC nominees in place
as quickly as possible, said a Reid spokesperson: "As with all of the
President's nominees, it is important that we confirm this [Genachowski]
nomination as soon as possible so that he has a full team to address the many
issues confronting the nation."
tried to fast-track the vote last week, but could not get all the senators
Genachowski is now cleared to take the helm, with acting
Chairman Michael Copps returning to commissioner status after a roundly-praised
spearheading of the final push toward the analog shutoff-initially slated for
Feb. 17 before being postponed until June 12. (Click here for continuing
coverage of the DTV transition.)
McDowell gets his first full term, having previously been
serving out the unexpired term of former Chairman Michael Powell.
The president must still sign the commissioning papers and
the pair must be sworn in, but historically that has happened in a matter of
days. That means Genachowski could be presiding over his first meeting July 2,
the FCC's next public meeting.
The president had signaled his intention to nominate
Genachowksi back in January, and his official nomination came in March. But as
has become custom, Republicans needed to agree on one of their own candidates to
pair with him, and that turned out to be McDowell. The president makes the
pick, but ever since the Clinton
administration, the president has deferred to the leaders of the opposing party
for the remaining seats.
Still to be determined is the president's choice for the
other Democratic seat--which Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein is vacating for a
post at the USDA's Rural Utilities Service--and an empty Republican seat.
Things were moving swiftly Thursday. The White House announced its intention to nominate former NTIA acting head Meredith Attwell Baker to a Republican seat, followed within hours by its notice that it had sent that nomination and of South Carolina utility regulator Mignon Clyburn to the Senate, where they must now go through a confirmation hearing and full Senate vote.
Genachowski, a former Harvard Law School classmate of
Obama's, helped draft the Obama campaign's technology policy plan, which some
at the time boiled down to "open government, open networks, and open markets."
He is co-founder of venture capital firm Rock Creek
Ventures, a former adviser to FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, and was a senior
executive from 1997 to 2005 at Barry Diller's media company, IAC/InterActiveCorp.
Only days after the election, he was tapped along with Blair
Levin, another Hundt lieutenant, to draft tech policy for the new
has since been tapped by Copps to help the FCC draw up its national broadband
plan, so the two will be working together again on a major Obama
The FCC has to come up with a plan by Feb. 17 of next year--a
sort of broadband hard date--to roll out broadband service to the nation.
At his confirmation hearing, Genachowski pledged his support
for media diversity and ubiquitous broadband and his opposition to the fairness
doctrine. He also said he would uphold indecency regulations but also looked to
parental content controls as a way to manage media content. One of his first
deadlines will be a late August report to Congress on the state of those
content controls, both the V-chip/ratings system and cross-platform controls.
Genachowski brings to the commission a range of experience
in law, business, politics, communications, and new media. That experience drew
rave reviews from senators on both sides of the aisle at the confirmation
In addition to his communications and private sector work, he
was also a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice David Souter and retired Justice
William Brennan. His congressional experience includes the staff of the Joint
Select Committee on Iran-Contra and in the office of then Rep. Charles Schumer
of New York.
According to Web.com, where Genachowski is a board member, his other
directorships have included Expedia.com, Hotels.com, and Ticketmaster.
"We congratulate Julius Genachowski on his confirmation as chairman of the FCC," said Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts. "He has an exceptionable combination of public service and real-world business experience which are vital at this exciting time in communications and technology. We also look forward to continue working with Commissioner Robert M. McDowell now that he has been confirmed for a well deserved second term. The confirmation Thursday as well of Larry Strickling as NTIA Administrator brings another talented member with remarkable professional experience in the communications sector to the Administrationâ€™s team. We applaud President Obama and the Senate for approving these excellent members of the Commission and NTIA. We look forward to working with all the members of the Commission and the NTIA Administrator to address our nationâ€™s important communications priorities like broadband adoption.â€
"I congratulate Julius Genachowski on his confirmation by the Senate to be Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission." said McDowell of his soon-to-be new colleague. "As many have noted, the agency stands to benefit from Julius' strong background in both the public and private sectors. I look forward to working with him and his team as we move forward on the many matters facing American consumers and the Commission."
Free Press was thrilled. "We are thrilled that Julius Genachowski has finally been confirmed," said Executive Director Josh Silver. "It's time for the FCC to tackle some of the pressing issues that have been put on hold, such as bringing fast, affordable, open broadband to everyone, spurring innovation and competition and diversifying media ownership.
The agenda awaiting Genachowski on day one is enormous but there is no doubt that he is the right man for the job. We are confident that the public interest will be at the forefront of the Genachowski FCC, and look forward to working with him."