Martin Nomination Vote on Hold

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According to several sources, there is a hold on the nomination of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to a second term on the commission.

He was renominated in April by the president for a second, five-year term. His first term expired June 30.

The Senate Commerce Committee voted earlier this month 21 to 0 to approve the renomination, but an expected floor vote before the election break had not materialized at press time.

The read over at the FCC is that it is a policy issue, not a personal one, that prompted the hold. The hold could be lifted at any time, and it was still possible that his nomination could get a full Senate fast-track vote Friday if that happened.

One theory is that the hold was placed by Senator John Sununu (R-N.H.), though he was one of the 21 who voted for the nomination in committee, over the issue of e911. That is the requirement, pushed by the FCC, that interconnected VOIP services--ones that permit calls to begin and end on traditional public switched telephone networks (PSTN)--deliver 911 calls to a local emergency operator as a standard feature rather than an option.

Senator Sununu's office had not confirmed or denied the hold at press time. His press office was working on a response, but had not yet returned several calls.

Holds and hold-ups are not particularly uncommon. New commissioner Robert McDowell's nomination was on hold for months as part of a general hold linked to Katrina-related issues, and when that was lifted there was a second hold said to be related to communications policy and not to any opposition to McDowell himself.

And it isn't just Congress that can drag their feet. Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein's renomination was held up by the White House two years ago in a spat with Democrats over their filibusters of judicial appointments.

Any Senator can place a hold, but it would have little practical effect since even without renomination, Martin could serve until the close of the next session of Congress, which means until the fall of 2007.

If the hold is not lifted by the Senate's planned exit Oct. 30, Martin could still get a vote in a lame duck session starting in November, or even a recess appointment by the president.

Broadcasters, at least as represented by the National Association of Broadcasters, back Martin's renomination, saying they "applaud the great job and balanced approach that the chairman has taken on public policy regulatory issues."

Why the support given the contentious indecency battle? Martin, for one, has pushed for government-mandated cable carriage of broadcasters' multicast signals and, for two, supports deregulatory media ownership rules.

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