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Obama renominates FCC Democrat in his final two weeks

The president’s effort to nominate Jessica Rosenworcel hit a roadblock in the Senate last year. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

January 05, 2017

In a last-minute bid to stack the Federal Communications Commission with Democrats, President Obama has renominated FCC Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to be reappointed to the five-member panel after his initial nomination effort failed last year.

The president made the announcement Wednesday as part of a slew of last-minute nominations sent to the Senate with just over two weeks left in office.

Obama nominated Rosenworcel last year for a new five-year term, but it was never taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate. Her term expired July 1, 2015, but according to the Senate Commerce Committee, she was allowed to “remain in her current role as commissioner until Dec. 31, 2016 while awaiting Senate confirmation for a second term.”

FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler, also a Democrat, offered to step down last month if the Senate agreed to reconfirm Rosenworcel. Republican senators rejected the offer, citing a lack of time before the end of the session of Congress. A week later Wheeler announced his departure anyway.

Wheeler applauded Obama’s reappointment of Rosenworcel to serve a second term, adding that he hopes Congress “will act quickly to confirm her nomination.”

Democrat lawmakers too expressed their approval of the move, including new Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York.

“Leader Schumer believes Commissioner Rosenworcel did a terrific job at the FCC and deserved to be reconfirmed last Congress,” Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer said, according to the Hill. “He was pleased to see President Obama renominate her today, and hopes that her nomination can move forward quickly.”

Rosenworcel voted in lockstep with the agency’s other Democrats last year to pass net neutrality regulations as a way to prevent service providers from blocking or throttling web content. The move was condemned by major telecommunications companies and FCC Republicans who expressed concern about the commission’s “unmitigated power” to regulate the Internet.

Conservatives have pushed back against Rosenworcel’s nomination for a second term. Back in December, the conservative Heritage Foundation urged the Senate to refrain from approving any of Obama’s last-minute FCC nominees, advocating they wait for President-elect Trump to take office on Jan. 20, and warned Rosenworcel would “undermine Internet freedom.”

“Confirmation of Rosenworcel would deny the new President the ability to reshape communications policy, with serious negative effects on Internet freedom and innovation in the economically vital communications sector,” wrote Alden Abbott, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “Senate Republicans should stand firm and deny confirmation to Ms. Rosenworcel, in order to ensure that the new President has the opportunity to reform the FCC.”

The FCC is currently in Democratic control by a 3-2 margin, but is sure to change soon with Wheeler’s departure. Trump could choose to renominate Rosenworcel too without jeopardizing a GOP majority that is almost certain if Trump’s nominees are confirmed by the Senate. The new president will be limited by an FCC rule that prevents more than three members of one party being on the commission at the same time.