Following his swearing in, the former cable and wireless telephone lobbyist will assume the top job at the agency, succeeding fellow Democrat Mignon Clyburn, who has been running things as acting chairwoman since Julius Genachowski stepped down earlier this year. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz cleared the way for the confirmation vote Tuesday evening by lifting his hold on a vote.
Former cable and wireless phone lobbyist Tom Wheeler was confirmed Tuesday evening to be the next FCC chairman, according to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).
Also confirmed was Senate aide Mike O’Rielly to the vacant Republican seat on the commission.
Following his swearing in, Wheeler will assume the top job at the agency, succeeding fellow Democrat Mignon Clyburn, who has been running things as acting chairwoman since Julius Genachowski stepped down earlier this year.
The confirmations quickly followed news that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had released his hold on a Senate confirmation vote on Wheeler.
Cruz said in a press release earlier Tuesday that he had put the hold on due to concerns that Wheeler might try to impose new disclosure requirements on some political ads, without Congress’ approval.
But during a meeting with Wheeler in the afternoon, Cruz said the FCC nominee made clear that he had “heard the unambiguous message” that trying to impose the disclosure requirements, absent congressional approval “would imperil the commission’s vital statutory responsibilities, and he [Wheeler] explicitly stated that doing so was ‘not a priority,’ ” Cruz said.
“Based on those representations, I have lifted my hold on his nomination, and I look forward to working with him on the FCC to expand jobs and economic growth,” Cruz said.
O’Reilly’s fate was tied to Wheeler’s.
Wheeler issued this statement: “I am humbled by the Senate’s confirmation and I look forward to taking the oath of office in the coming days. I am deeply grateful to President Obama for his confidence in nominating me for this position.
“Chairwoman Clyburn has led the commission with dedication and vision for six months. We all owe Chairwoman Clyburn a huge thank you. The chairwoman, along with Commissioners Rosenworcel and Pai and the FCC staff dealt with important issues that kept policy and the country moving forward.
“Congratulations to Commissioner O’Rielly for his Senate confirmation. We will be joining a dynamic and dedicated team at the FCC.
“What excites me about this new responsibility is how we are at a hinge moment of history; the Internet is the greatest communications revolution in the last 150 years. We must all dedicate ourselves to encouraging its growth, expanding what it enables, and assuring its users’ rights are respected.”
Acting FCC Chairwoman Clyburn said: “I congratulate Tom Wheeler and Michael O’Rielly on their Senate confirmations. Tom brings a tremendous depth of experience, talent, and knowledge that will serve him well as the leader of this critically important agency. I have no doubt that he will be an outstanding FCC Chairman. With his extensive public policy expertise and understanding of the communications landscape, Michael will certainly be an invaluable asset to the commission.
“The FCC family enthusiastically welcomes both Tom and Michael. I look forward to working with them, along with my current colleagues at the commission, to further communications policies that advance the public interest, bolster competition, empower consumers, and spur new waves of innovation that grow our economy and create jobs.”
Responding to the news:
NAB President-CEO Gordon Smith: “NAB strongly supported the nominations of both Tom Wheeler and Michael O’Rielly and we are pleased with their confirmation. We also salute the superb job done by Mignon Clyburn during her tenure as acting chair. Broadcasters look forward to working with a full complement of commissioners in the months and years ahead. Local radio and TV stations will continue our evolution to new distribution platforms, mindful that broadcasting remains an indispensable source of news, entertainment and lifeline information to communities across America.”
NCTA President-CEO Michael Powell: “We congratulate Tom Wheeler and Mike O’Rielly on their confirmations to serve on the Federal Communications Commission and look forward to working with them in their new positions. Both individuals bring an abundance of experience and deep knowledge of media, technology and telecommunications that will serve them well as the Commission considers important policy issues. With the commission soon to be at full strength, we would also be remiss not to complement Acting Commissioner Mignon Clyburn for her steady hands and for the significant contributions made by the FCC under her watch. We look forward to working with all commissioners as we begin a new chapter with a new chairman.”
Gary Shapiro, president-CEO, Consumer Electronics Association: “We applaud the Senate on the confirmations of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly. Chairman Wheeler takes the helm of the FCC at a critical time where action is required to reallocate spectrum for wireless broadband and other services. Our nation needs strong FCC leadership to make this goal a reality. CEA and its more than 2,000 member technology companies look forward to working with Chairman Wheeler, Commissioner O’Rielly and the full FCC on spectrum reallocation and other issues vital to innovation and our nation. We thank and congratulate Acting Chairwoman Clyburn for her terrific, honorable and exemplary leadership as acting chairwoman.”
American Cable Association President-CEO Matthew M. Polka: “ACA congratulates Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner O’Rielly on their Senate confirmation this evening. We look forward to working with them as well as Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai on addressing the critical communications policy issues facing the country. We also look forward to continuing our constructive relationship with Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who deserves special praise for keeping the FCC’s agenda on track while serving as acting chairwoman these past few months.”
Gigi B. Sohn, president-CEO of Public Knowledge: “Public Knowledge looks forward to working with Chairman Wheeler. We expect that he will work to preserve a strong FCC that will ensure an open, universally accessible and affordable communications system that serves all Americans. We also expect that he will carry out the president’s communications policy agenda, which includes robust open Internet requirements, vigorous broadband competition, affordable broadband access, diversity of voices and serious consumer protections, all backed by vigorous agency enforcement. “The public owes a debt of gratitude to Acting Chairwoman Clyburn for her leadership over the past five months. From reforming outrageously high prison phone rates, to protecting mobile users’ privacy, to ensuring interoperability in the 700 MHz band, she has accomplished an enormous amount in very little time. Public Knowledge also congratulates Mike O’Rielly on his confirmation as FCC commissioner. We worked with Commissioner O’Rielly some years ago when he was a staffer for then-Senator John Sununu and found him to be a smart and strategic partner. We look forward to working with him again in his new role.”
Free Press President-CEO Craig Aaron: “We had plenty of questions about the choice of Mr. Wheeler, but what matters is what you do once you’re sitting in the big chair. And there is a lot to do: connecting all Americans to the wonders of the open Internet, encouraging meaningful competition, diversifying media ownership, and making sure that this crucial agency has the power to protect people everywhere when predatory or powerful corporations step over the line. Mr. Wheeler has an opportunity to transform the media, technology and this agency for the better. But that will require a different approach to this powerful pulpit from most of the chairmen who came before him. The new chairman has been in Washington for many years, and we hope one of the first things he will do is commit to going outside the Beltway, getting away from the lobbyists, and meeting face-to-face with the American people. We also congratulate Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn for her exemplary leadership at the agency these past few months. She accomplished a great deal in a short time and engaged a wide range of stakeholders. Her approach should be a model for Mr. Wheeler.”