Sources: Republicans Closer To FCC Picks

Appear to be Meredith Atwell Baker and Robert McDowell

According to sources familiar with the process, Senate Republicans are closer to agreeing on their two picks for FCC commissioner.

They appear to be Meredith Atwell Baker, former acting head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, and a renomination nod for FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell. Baker is said to be closer to being announced, though neither is a for sure until the president announces his intention to nominate, followed by a nomination, after which they must get a confirmation hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee and a vote in the full Senate.

Baker carries some history as head of NTIA, since it was the backlog of DTV-to-analog converter box coupons at the NTIA that prompted the Obama administration to push for moving the DTV date to June 12. But the program was already in place when she got there, and she got high marks from both Republicans and Democrats for her collegial stewardship.

Technically the pick of FCC nominees is the president's to make, but ever since Bill Clinton deferred to Republican leadership for names to fill Republican seats, the custom is that top Senate Republicans get to make the call, which they have so far failed to do.

A spokesperson for committee Republicans had no comment.

The White House has picked its two Democrats, Julius Genachowksi and Mignon Clyburn. But Genachowski's nomination hearing has been postponed once, and Clyburn's hasn't yet been scheduled as Republicans tried to agree on their two picks.

The FCC is currently being headed by acting Chairman Michael Copps, who has been teeing up items for his successor.

Over at NTIA, there remains no permanent head, with the Senate, somewhat surprisingly, failing two weeks ago to vote on the nomination of Larry Strickling for that post after he seemed to sail through the hearing. And Genachowski's nomination hearing was put on the calendar last month, then withdrawn a day later.

Meanwhile, until a new FCC Democrat is chosen, Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein can't leave to head the Ag Department's Rural Utilities Service. His nomination has not yet been approved by the senate, but even if it were, his exit would leave only two commissioners and FCC rules require at least three for a vote on any item.