Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Texas) has formally placed a hold on Tom Wheeler's nomination to become the next chairman of the FCC, pushing back even further a final confirmation vote.
Cruz, who led the unsuccessful charge in the Senate to defund President Obama's healthcare law ahead of the government shutdown, is unsatisfied with answers Wheeler has given on whether the FCC will require more disclosures from the sponsors of political advertisements.
"The Senator is holding the nominee until he gets answers to his questions regarding Mr. Wheeler's views on whether the FCC has the authority or intent to implement the requirements of the failed Congressional DISCLOSE Act," Cruz spokesman Sean Rushton said in a statement. "Mr. Wheeler had previously declined to give specific answers, but as he's now expressed his readiness to revisit the Senator's questions, the Senator hopes to communicate with him soon."
The hold could push back a full Senate confirmation vote on Wheeler's nomination by several weeks, according to analysts. "The confirmation delay seems likely to last until at least late October and could drag on longer, potentially slowing FCC consideration of some key matters," Stifel Nicolaus analysts Christopher King and David Kaut wrote in a research note.
An FCC spokesman declined to comment on Cruz's action, according to the Washington Post.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller I (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said he was disappointed with the hold. "We saw during the shutdown the difficulties experienced by families, businesses and the economy when the obstruction of a reckless few prevails and causes the lapse of important government services," Rockefeller said in a statement. "If the government is going to fully function for the American people, we have to get these highly qualified nominees confirmed now."
The Senate also needs to vote to confirm Michael O'Rielly as the FCC's second Republican commissioner. The commission has been led since this spring by Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn.
Clyburn said the FCC is now open for business again with the rest of the government following the end of the government shutdown.
"Our number one priority is to resume normal operations as soon as possible, and the commission's dedicated staff is working hard toward that goal," Clyburn said in a statement. "We have already taken immediate steps to remedy disruptions caused by the shutdown and will be issuing further guidance very soon. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through this extraordinary situation."
Analysts: Government shutdown could imperil FCC's agenda
FCC lays out contingency plans in case of government shutdown
Obama nominates Senate aide O'Rielly for Republican FCC spot
FCC nominee Wheeler backs away from past comments on AT&T/T-Mobile merger