Republican Nominees for FCC

by on February 3, 2009 · 25 comments

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Commerce Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison, I hear, have received approximately one dozen recommendations for filling the vacant seat on the FCC which, by law, must be filled by a Republican.  Although the president will make the appointment, the views of the Senate Republican Leader, in particular, are usually accorded significant weight.  

The most prominent candidates include Lee Carosi Dunn (Senator McCain’s assistant for communications policy), Brian Hendricks (Hutchison’s assistant for communications policy), Ajit Pai (Senator Brownback’s assistant for judiciary matters) and two officials from the Bush administration (David Gross, ambassador for international communications and information policy; and Meredith Baker, former acting assistant secretary of commerce for  telecommunications and information policy).  All sound like good choices.  The Senate staffers have the inside track. 

Aside from the current vacant seat, it’s also possible  one of the candidates could replace current FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell, whose term expires in June.  By law his seat would also have to be filled by a Republican.

  • http://vitanuova.loyalty.org/ Seth Schoen

    It always bothers me when the FCC seats are described as legally belonging to Republicans or Democrats. In fact, the legal rule is 47 USC §154(b)(5), which only provides:

    “The maximum number of commissioners who may be members of the same political party shall be a number equal to the least number of commissioners which constitutes a majority of the full membership of the Commission.”

    So there is no requirement of any sort that any FCC seats have to be filled by anyone of any particular party. Members of the Senate conventionally assume (and expect) that there will be three Commission seats held by members of the President's political party and two seats held by members of the largest party in the Senate other than the President's party. However, this is not a legal requirement at all. Just as there is a Senator who does not belong to a political party, there can be an FCC Commissioner who does not belong to a political party, or there could be a third-party commissioner.

    It's reasonable for someone writing about the FCC to predict that the tradition that all FCC Comissioners will be members of a political party will continue (only one past Commissioner, Ewell Jett, is listed by Wikipedia without an affiliation as a Republican or Democrat), but the basis of this tradition is solely the behavior of Senate caucuses, not the law.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Three Democrats, a Green, and one Republican? That would suck.

    It seems to me that you could fill all the seats with members of the TLF collective: Adam and Jim can fill the Republican seats, and Drew and Tim the Democrat seats.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Amen, Seth! I was just about to make the same point.

    Now, obviously, as repeat players in a long term “game” (to put this in game theoretic terms), both parties have a strong incentive to abide by an implicit agreement that they'll alternate between 3 Dems, 2 Reps and vice versa depending on who's in control. It would certainly be interesting to see what would happen the first time a president deviated from this long-term equilibrium. Why not appoint 2 Dems, a Rep, a Green, and a Libertarian?

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Three Democrats, a Green, and one Republican? That would suck.

    It seems to me that you could fill all the seats with members of the TLF collective: Adam and Jim can fill the Republican seats, and Drew and Tim the Democrat seats.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Amen, Seth! I was just about to make the same point.

    Now, obviously, as repeat players in a long term “game” (to put this in game theoretic terms), both parties have a strong incentive to abide by an implicit agreement that they'll alternate between 3 Dems, 2 Reps and vice versa depending on who's in control. It would certainly be interesting to see what would happen the first time a president deviated from this long-term equilibrium. Why not appoint 2 Dems, a Rep, a Green, and a Libertarian?

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