AT DEADLINE

2 names forwarded to fill FCC slots

Activities surrounding the future makeup of the head table at the Federal Communications Commission heated up late last week with some congressional endorsements of commissioner candidates, but there still appears to be no consensus regarding how and when the nameplates will be changed.

In a move sanctioned by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) sent to the White House the names of two Republicans, economist Harold Furchtgott-Roth and Justice Department antitrust chief Michael Powell, son of Gen. Colin Powell (ret.). If the Clinton administration approves, Furchtgott-Roth and Powell will fill the seats of Commissioner Rachelle Chong, whose three-year term ends June 30, and another Republican position that has been vacant since Andrew Barrett left the FCC a year ago.

Last Friday, Chong circulated a statement regarding the end of her tenure that said in part, “It is an honor and a privilege to serve as a commissioner during this time of great change in the communications industry. I have brought the West Coast perspective of an Asian American and the experience of a practicing communications lawyer to FCC decision-making.”

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) wanted further information regarding these two candidates prior to their names being forwarded to the president, but Lott made the nomination without such a move. Citing “serious concerns,” Burns said in a written statement, “While I have not made up my mind about any of the possible appointees, I believe it imperative that the [communications] subcommittee play a more vigorous role in this important area … There will be no rubber stamp on the part of the subcommittee.” Burns still wants to spend some face-to-face time with each of the candidates prior to any appointment to the FCC.

FCC general counsel Bill Kennard’s candidacy, floated on the Hill earlier this year, apparently has been resurrected, even though no formal nod has been given by the Senate. Kennard’s appointment, if it happens, would give FCC chairman Reed Hundt a 3-2 majority on decision-making at the commission, and Kennard certainly has Hundt’s backing for the job. However, one Hill staffer told RCR that a “substantial” number of Democratic senators have decided not to back Kennard if he is nominated. Another Democratic candidate wannabe, Chris McLean in Sen. Bob Kerrey’s (D-Neb.) office, reportedly has said 17 senators on both sides of the aisle support him, although his name has not shown up on any official rosters.

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