The Clinton Administration plans to give FCC Commissioner Susan Ness up to one more year in office, informed sources say.
Democrat Ness' term officially runs out when Congress adjourns for the year, likely in October. But the president may grant officials one more year when Congress is out through what is known as a recess appointment. Sources, including a former Clinton White House official, say the president will excercise that power after Congress adjourns to maintain the FCC Democratic majority.
A Ness aide declined to comment, except to say that Ness "enjoys serving the American public."
The president nominated Ness to a second five-year term July 1999. But Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) has made it clear that he does not want to confirm Ness and he has refused to schedule her nomination for a committee vote.
If Ness ends up with a recess appointment, she could only stay up to the end of the next congressional session or until someone new is appointed to fill her seat, whichever comes first. The constitution allows for recess appointments so that key positions don't remain empty just because Congress is away.
Leaving Ness in place would keep FCC votes tipped in Democrats' favor as long as the other commissioners stick around. If Ness leaves this fall and everyone else stays, the FCC would be evenly split along party lines. Chairman Bill Kennard and Gloria Tristani are Democrats; Michael Powell and Harold Furchtgott-Roth, Republicans.