Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the controversial lawmaker blamed for the nation's second largest government shutdown, is now taking aim at the Federal Communications Commission by putting a hold on a Senate vote to confirm Tom Wheeler (D) as chairman.
Cruz blocked the vote that was being rushed through Wednesday evening (the same night as the vote to open the government) by unanimous consent. It only takes a single Senator to block the measure and Cruz took it, making good on a threat he made in June during Wheeler's nomination hearing before the senate commerce committee.
"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. 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," Sean Rushton, the Senator's communications director said in a statement.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the commerce committee said he was "disappointed" that Wheeler and his Republican counterpart for the FCC, Mike O'Rielly, were blocked. "We need to get the government functioning as a whole again," 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."
Republicans opposed the Disclose Act, a bill that would require nonprofit groups to disclose who pays for political advertisements, on the grounds that the FCC lacked the authority without Congressional approval. During his nomination hearing, Wheeler, a telecom vet and Obama fundraiser, said he needed to learn more about the issue. But Cruz wanted a commitment from Wheeler that he wouldn't pursue a course, arguing that "it is unconstitutional and bad policy."
Just because Cruz put a hold on Wheeler, it isn't a slam-dunk that he will stop Senate confirmation; Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) still could bring the vote to the floor, though the custom is to honor a Senator's hold. The earliest a confirmation vote on Wheeler and his Republican counterpart O'Rielly could come up for a vote is Oct. 28. The Senate is in recess until then.
For now, the FCC will have to clean up its backlog with three commissioners, led by acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn (D), who will preside over the commission's next monthly meeting, which was moved to Oct. 28.