FCC Chairman Nominee Genachowski, Current Commissioner McDowell Face Confirmation Hearings
On June 16, Julius Genachowski -- the man President Barack Obama picked to head the Federal Communications Commission -- and current FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell appeared before the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for their confirmation hearing. The Committee voted 24-1 to approve Genachowski's nomination and unanimously approved McDowell for his first full term as a Commissioner, sending their names to the full Senate to be confirmed.
President Obama nominated Genachowski to lead the Commission on March 3, 2009; the president renominated McDowell to his post on June 2, just a little over two weeks ago. Genachowski is a Democratic nominee, while McDowell is a Republican. Only three Commissioners may be members of the same political party.
At his confirmation hearing, the Chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) told Genachowski that he wants "an FCC that is transparent, that inspires confidence and that makes our digital infrastructure a model for the world. Tragically, this has not been the case for some time. Let me be very clear about the challenge before you. Fix this agency or we will fix it for you."
Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) praised Genachowski for having the "perfect background" to run the FCC. He then added, "It seems to me that you will lead a rather unhealthy agency. We've been through a period of substantial secrecy."
Senator Rockefeller noted that during former Chairman Kevin J. Martin's tenure, the FCC was under congressional investigation for mismanagement and the focus of criticism by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for its lack of transparency and potential misuse of data. Late last year, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce -- the congressional committee that oversees the FCC -- released its majority staff report "on the bipartisan investigation of the FCC's regulatory processes and management practices." The report -- Deception and Distrust: The Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Kevin J. Martin -- stated that the investigation was prompted "by allegations to the effect that [FCC] Chairman Kevin J. Martin has abused FCC procedures by manipulating or suppressing reports, data and information."
Genachowski assured the Committee that his career "inside and outside government has convinced [him] that the FCC can be a model for excellence in government, fighting for consumers and families, fostering investment and innovation, through open, fair, and data-driven processes -- a 21st century agency for the information age. The FCC should consult closely with Congress, and work effectively and efficiently for the American people."
In his testimony, McDowell said the Commission should focus on attracting capital investment to the communications sector, saying that the wireless sector is becoming increasingly important. "I will work to support policies that will promote vigorous growth in the broadband markets to ensure that all Americans have access to the promise of high-speed Internet services, and that the Internet remains robust, open and safe," he told the Committee.
Sources on Capitol Hill have said that Genachowski should be confirmed by the time the Senate recesses for the July 4 holiday.