Senate Commerce Approves Genachowski, McDowell Nominations

Sources said the Commerce Committee leadership had planned to use an off-the-floor markup to speed the process

The nominations of Julius Genachowski and Robert McDowell to the FCC were approved by the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday in an off-the-floor markup.

That is according to sources, who said the Commerce Committee leadership had planned to use that fast-track method to speed the process. Otherwise, a committee vote would not have come until at least next Thursday, and then only if it were noticed by the end of today per Senate rules of one-week notice on hearings. Congress is going out on its July 4 holiday June 29.

An off-the-floor markup is essentially buttonholing all the members of the committee and getting them to approve the nominations. That will still depend on whether all are satisfied with the written answers to questions the nominees were to have supplied by last night.

No word on a full Senate vote, but the committee has paved the way for a Senate vote before that July 4 recess.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA) praised Genachowski, but added some caveat to his vote in support of McDowell.

"Julius Genachowski has my resounding support," he said in a statement following the vote."He offers the public and private sector experience needed to reinvigorate the FCC and put consumers first. From the content that gets broadcast into millions of living rooms throughout America, to the broadband networks that can bring equal opportunities to our largest cities and our smallest rural towns – the FCC oversees it all. I look forward to Mr. Genachowski’s leadership at the FCC and a future of good and honest communications policy.”

He was supportive but less sanguine about McDowell.

“In the spirit of bipartisanship, I have ultimately decided to vote for Robert McDowell," he said. "However, my vote comes with concerns. I want to be clear that I have high expectations that Mr. McDowell will show great independence from the industries he regulates. I hope I am not disappointed.  I do not believe the American people should settle for anything less than an FCC that is transparent, consumer friendly, inspires public confidence, and is capable of transforming our digital infrastructure into the 21st century and beyond.”

Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn had no reservations, at least none expressed, about either nominee.

"We are very pleased that the Senate Commerce Committee acted so quickly to approve the nominations of Julius Genachowski to be the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and Robert McDowell to serve another term as commissioner," said Sohn. "We look forward to the full Senate confirming the nominees quickly.  The issues awaiting Commission action are too important to be delayed any longer."

According to a committee spokesperson, the vote on Genachowski was 24 to 1, with Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) voting agains. The vote on McDowell was unanimous.

DeMint's office had not returned a call at press time.