Citing unnamed sources, Reuters reported today that Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has placed a hold on Robert M. McDowells nomination as the FCCs fifth commissioner.
Stuart Chapman, a spokesman for Rockefeller, would neither confirm nor deny those reports. He did say, however, that Rockefeller who worked on parts of the 1996 Telecom Act and who serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which is spearheading a rewrite of that legislation is concerned about certain Universal Service Fund (USF) accounting problems.
Sen. Rockefeller is intent on having the administration provide the clarification and confirmation that the USF accounting problem is fixed, Chapman said. This is a critical program for rural America and its important that the USF be as strong and effective as it can possibly be.
Any senator can impose a hold on a nomination for reasons that might not even relate to the matter at hand. Such action also can allow policymakers more time for review. If Rockefeller indeed has called for the hold, it could be he wants more careful consideration applied to the USF, an issue being considered as part of overall telecom reform efforts. Rockefeller has gone back and forth with others in Congress to exempt the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAF) from requirements he has contended would result in higher phone fees and fewer funds for upgrading technology in schools and libraries.
McDowell, a lawyer for the competitive carrier association COMPTEL, sailed through his nomination hearings earlier this month; his name was sent to the full Senate for confirmation, which now appears to be stalled.
McDowell, a Republican, would round out an FCC that has lacked a majority for a year. By law, the party controlling the White House is given three of the commission’s five seats. McDowells presence would give Chairman Kevin J. Martin three Republicans, leaving Michael J. Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein as the minority Democrats. Deborah T. Tate has served on the commission since January.
Sen. Rockefeller http://rockefeller.senate.gov