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Sen. Cruz Puts Hold on Vote to Confirm Wheeler as Head of FCC

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A Senate vote on the nomination of Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been blocked by Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), the Tea Party Republican whose effort to cut funding for the health care program known as Obamacare led to the shutdown of most U.S. government operations for more than two weeks.

Cruz, who is a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, said he placed the hold blocking the vote on Wheeler’s nomination because of a lack of answers by the nominee concerning how much authority the FCC has to direct broadcasters to disclose who is funding political ads, as would have been directed by a bill that died in 2012.

That bill, the DISCLOSE Act died after failing to receive the 60 votes needed to end a Republican filibuster on the proposal. It would have required the disclosure of anyone who donates to groups that spend more than $10,000 on campaign ads and other campaign expenses.

A statement issued by Cruz’s office says, “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.”

On May 1, President Obama nominated Wheeler -- managing director of the Washington investment firm Core Capital Partners and head of the FCC panel that advises the agency on technology issues -- to serve as FCC chairman. If the Senate confirms Wheeler, he will replace Julius Genachowski, who held the post from 2009 until May 2013.

Obama also designated Commissioner Mignon Clyburn as the acting chairwoman of the FCC, the first woman to ever head the commission. Clyburn has been on the commission since Aug. 3, 2009.

With a deal in place to resume all federal operations, the vote on Wheeler’s nomination was expected to take place Wednesday. However, Cruz’s hold blocks a vote on not only Wheeler’s nomination, but also that of Michael O’Rielly, the Republican nominee named to fill the seat on the commission left by former Commissioner Robert McDowell, who also left the FCC this year. The hold will likely keep the Senate from voting on those nominations until late October, Capitol Hill sources say.

Calls to both Wheeler and the FCC seeking comment on Cruz’s hold, the nominee’s stand on regulating online video, and the commission’s agenda for online video were not returned by press time.

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