Obama nominates Senate aide O'Rielly for Republican FCC spot

President Obama nominated Michael O'Rielly, a top aide to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), for a spot as one of the two Republican commissioners of the FCC.

O'Rielly has been mentioned in recent weeks as a leading contender for one of the two minority Republican spots on the five-member panel. Separately, Tom Wheeler has been nominated as the next FCC chairman. If Wheeler and O'Rielly are confirmed, as expected, the commission will return to its full, five-member strength. The agency is currently being led by Acting Chairwoman Mingon Clyburn.

Traditionally, when there are two open spots on the FCC, presidents have nominated one commissioner from their party and another from the minority party so that the Senate can confirm them together. Wheeler's nomination was approved earlier this week by the Senate Commerce Committee but is awaiting a vote by the full Senate. With Congress heading into its August recess, the nominations likely won't be voted on for several weeks.

According to Reuters, those who have worked with O'Rielly described him as deeply knowledgeable about telecom policy issues. He has also advised former Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire and former House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley of Virginia on telecommunications issues.

O'Rielly would join Ajit Pai as the second Republican on the FCC, replacing Commissioner Robert McDowell and joining current Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

"The challenge for the next Republican commissioner is going to be trying to find the balance between being effective and shaping policy versus making a statement and laying the groundwork for a court appeal or congressional action," McDowell, who is now at the Hudson Institute think tank, told Reuters. "That always breeds a tension between principles and pragmatism and he will have to balance that."

"I congratulate Mike O'Rielly on his nomination to serve as an FCC Commissioner," Pai said in a statement. "His expertise, experience, and fresh perspective will be a tremendous asset to the commission as we confront the many challenging issues on our agenda. I look forward to working with him and wish him all the best during the confirmation process."

At the top of the FCC's agenda are impending incentive auctions of broadcast TV spectrum, which the FCC wants to repurpose for mobile broadband. The commission is also contemplating several other auctions of government spectrum and is trying to find a solution on interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this The Hill article
- see this Broadcasting & Cable article

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