Now That Uncle Sam Is Back, What’s Next for the FCC, FTC?

Sen. Cruz blocks Wheeler's nomination, while backlogs are tackled

Even before the last minute Senate-negotiated deal to open the government and raise the debt ceiling, there were signs that Washington was re-opening its doors.

Within minutes of President Obama signing the deal that reopens the government through Jan. 15 and raises the debt ceiling deadline to Feb. 7, the Federal Communications Commission's website came back on line.

The Senate, even as it was voting on the deal, tried to speed the confirmation of FCC nominees Tom Wheeler (D) for chairman and Mike O'Rielly (R), and FTC nominee Terrell McSweeny, but failed to achieve a unanimous consent when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) put a hold on Wheeler. (It only takes a single Senator to block a "hotline" measure.) 

"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.

Since the Senate is on recess next week, the soonest Wheeler and O'Rielly could be confirmed by the Senate is Oct. 28.

So what's next? For a while longer, the FTC and FCC will chug along and tackle the backlogs that mounted up during the 16- day shutdown with less than five commissioners. The FCC was already forced to postpone its Oct. 22 monthly meeting because of the shutdown. There is also plenty of fretting that the auction of wireless spectrum could also suffer a delay, pushing it to 2015.

The FTC took a little longer to get back up to speed. Its website came back online around 9:15 a.m. today. With less time to prepare, many wonder if the FTC will decide to delay upcoming workshops on the Internet of things (Nov. 19) and native advertising (Dec. 4), a new issue for the agency.

Now more than ever, the advertising lobby will need to keep up the work to preserve the advertising tax deduction. The next big date is Dec. 13 when the Congressional negotiating committee is supposed to issue budget recommendations for funding the government beyond Jan. 15.

After failing miserably in this last go-round, there will be enormous pressure to actually get something done. "Congress has never had a lower favorability rating," said Dan Jaffe, evp for the Association of National Advertisers. "They have to show constructive results. Dec. 13 isn't very far away."