Obama renominates Rosenworcel as FCC commissioner, kicking off battle with Republican leaders

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Democratic FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was renominated on Wednesday as one of several nominations sent to the Senate by outgoing President Barack Obama.

Democratic FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has been renominated by outgoing President Barack Obama, a move that will likely draw a battle from Republican leaders, who desire to create a GOP majority-led commission.

Obama, who will be leaving office in two weeks, announced her renomination on Wednesday as just one of several nominations he sent to the Senate.

Rosenworcel was nominated by Obama in 2015 for a second five-year term at the FCC, but the Republican-led Senate never took action. Although Rosenworcel’s term expired in July 2015, she was allowed to "remain in her current role as commissioner until Dec. 31, 2016 while awaiting Senate confirmation for a second term."

RELATED: FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel nominated for new term

Her reappointment has been in limbo. Outgoing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who is also a Democrat, said he would leave the regulator if the Senate reconfirmed Rosenworcel. However, Republican senators refused to renominate her because there was not enough time before the session of Congress wrapped. Nevertheless, Wheeler announced he would step down a week later.    

Wheeler applauded Obama’s reappointment of Rosenworcel to a second term in a statement, adding that he hopes “Congress will act quickly to confirm her nomination.”

Her nomination also got support from other Democratic senators including new Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

"Leader Schumer believes Commissioner Rosenworcel did a terrific job at the FCC and deserved to be reconfirmed last Congress," Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, said, according to a report in The Hill. "He was pleased to see President Obama renominate her today, and hopes that her nomination can move forward quickly."

Rosenworcel voted along party lines with Chairman Wheeler and fellow commissioner Mignon Clyburn to pass net neutrality regulations designed to prevent large service providers from blocking or throttling content. Large incumbent telcos such as AT&T and Verizon said the net neutrality rules would inhibit new network investments.

She has also been an advocate of closing the so-called homework gap in areas that don’t have ample broadband connections. The homework gap has effectively hindered a large base of college and high school students from being able to complete homework assignments because they could not get access to a broadband connection.

Her term wasn’t without controversy. Rosenworcel was critical of Wheeler’s set-top box (STB) proposal, citing concerns of a provision to form an independent licensing board.

As a result of her disagreement on the STB proposal, Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) threatened to abandon support for her renomination in November. Later, the two Democratic senators lifted a hold on Rosenworcel's renomination after what Markey described as “positive conversations” between the senators and the Democratic agency commissioner.

Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation encouraged the Senate to not approve Obama's FCC nominees. The group said that they should wait to make any decisions until Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20.

"Confirmation of Rosenworcel would deny the new President the ability to reshape communications policy, with serious negative effects on Internet freedom and innovation in the economically vital communications sector," wrote Alden Abbott, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation. "Senate Republicans should stand firm and deny confirmation to Ms. Rosenworcel, in order to ensure that the new President has the opportunity to reform the FCC."

While the FCC has a 3-2 Democrat-led majority today, Wheeler’s departure will alter the regulator’s leadership. President-elect Trump could renominate Rosenworcel while maintaining a Republican majority. However, Trump will have to abide by an FCC rule that dictates that no more than three members of one party can serve on the commission.

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