Rosenworcel loses FCC nomination, again

4 March 2017 by Steve Blum
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For the second time, Jessica Rosenworcel is out of the running for a seat on the Federal Communications Commission. Donald Trump withdrew her nomination, which was re-submitted to congress by Barack Obama in the final days of his administration. It doesn’t appear to be personal. Her name was on a long list of last minute appointments made by Obama to various jobs throughout the federal government that Trump reversed in a batch – a common move when a new president takes office.

Rosenworcel’s original term on the FCC expired in 2015, and Obama nominated her to a democratic seat on the commission again. However, republicans in the U.S. senate put her confirmation on hold, pending the results of the election in November. Again, that’s a common enough maneuver and had little practical effect at the time since federal law allowed her to remain on the commission through the end of last year, whether or not she was renominated and confirmed.

The game changed after Trump was elected. Once he took office, he would be able to fill any vacancies on the commission with up to three republicans. But if Rosenworcel was confirmed and Tom Wheeler decided to keep his seat, even though he’d lose the chairmanship, there would still be a majority of three democrats (Mignon Clyburn is the third). So republican senators refused to confirm her until Wheeler resigned. He didn’t, so her original nomination expired and she left the commission at the end of last year. Obama then renewed her nomination, but it was a purely symbolic move. And now it’s been withdrawn.

I’m not betting she’ll be renominated for a third time. Traditional practice is for congressional democrats to pick people to fill seats nominally reserved for their party, and their selection is then rubber stamped by the republican president (or vice versa). But it doesn’t have to be that way. Trump could pick a democrat he prefers, or he could chose someone with no party affiliation or who belongs to a third party. The only limit on his choice is that he can’t appoint a fourth republican.

It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but Trump isn’t the sort who throws bargaining chips away, no matter how small.