Panel Sends O’Rielly FCC Nomination to Full Senate

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The Senate Commerce Committee sent the re-nomination of GOP FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly to the floor Wednesday. The vote provided clues to his prospects in that chamber.

In a voice vote, the committee passed his re-nomination. However four Democrats opposed it. Ranking member Maria Cantwell (WA) voted “no,” as did fellow Democrats Amy Klobuchar (MN), Richard Blumenthal (CT), and Brian Schatz (HI). Cantwell explained that in 2018, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel determined that O’Rielly violated the Hatch Act with political comments made at a conservative political action conference.   

Cantwell also said that O’Rielly “had recently injected, I believe, politics into part of the spectrum issue,” which she said she found “disturbing.” It wasn’t clear what she was referring to. 

The comments may be an indication O’Rielly’s nomination could get mired in the various Hill conflicts surrounding 5G spectrum battles that have dominated the congressional calendar this year, reports Politico. The Senate Commerce telecom subcommittee is holding a hearing today to review how the FCC and the administration have handled recent wireless decisions.

However Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) said he looked forward to advancing O’Rielly’s nomination. “The COVID-19 pandemic has Americans relying more on broadband than ever, [and] technologies like telehealth and remote learning are advancing rapidly,” Wicker said. “I appreciate O’Rielly’s commitment to speedy services and ensuring we are targeting the areas that need it most.” 

O’Rielly thanked the committee members, “for considering and favorably recommending” his re-nomination to the full Senate. “The committee takes its constitutional role in considering nominations seriously, and I am very pleased to have garnered the support of a bipartisan majority of members.”

O’Rielly’s been on the FCC since 2013. His term expired at the end of June 2019. He would have to leave his seat if he’s not re-confirmed for a new five-year term by the end of the year.

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