Meet the New Boss(es) . . .

. . . same as the old bosses? Wheeler, O’Rielly finally confirmed.

OK, readers, how about a big “welcome aboard” to the two newest arrivals on the Eighth Floor?

The Senate has confirmed Tom Wheeler and Michael O’Rielly as Chairman and Commissioner, respectively, of the Federal Communications Commission. They are expected to be sworn in as soon as possible. The confirmations return the FCC to a full complement of five commissioners. 

For those keeping score, Wheeler will be the third Democrat commissioner (joining Commissioners Mignon Clyburn – previously the Acting Chairwoman – and Jessica Rosenworcel) while O’Rielly will be the second Republican (along with Commissioner Ajit Pai).

The confirmations were delayed briefly when Senator Ted Cruz placed a procedural hold on them because of concerns about possible changes in FCC policy to expand mandatory disclosures relative to television political advertisements. Wheeler and Cruz had a sit-down chat about the matter, during which Wheeler advised Cruz that imposing such disclosure requirements was “not a priority”. Cruz was apparently satisfied, and he lifted his hold.

With that, the normally creaky Congressional wheels suddenly began to spin with impressive ease. During the last two minutes of the Senate session immediately following Cruz’s announcement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asked for unanimous consent that the nominees be confirmed. No objection was voiced, and that was that. 

The record will reflect that, also in those last two minutes, the Senate unanimously approved the designation of November 2, 2013, as National Bison Day. And, just in time (since the month was already pretty much gone), it approved the annual designation of October as National Work and Family Month.

Wheeler’s five-year term will end on June 30, 2018. He is, of course, a long-time Washington telecommunications lobbyist very familiar with the workings of the FCC. In his testimony during the Senate’s confirmation hearing last June, Wheeler described himself as an “unabashed supporter of competition”

O'Rielly is a Washington veteran whose interaction with the FCC has been from the legislative side. He spent 20 years as a Congressional staff member (on both the House and Senate sides), where he developed an expertise in communications policy. During his Senate testimony he professed to favor “a smaller governmental role”, although he hedged his position some by emphasizing that that was “not an absolute”.  Because O’Rielly will be filling out the remainder of former Commissioner McDowell’s term, he will be on board (at least initially) only until June 30, 2014.

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