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Senate Approves Wheeler, O'Rielly to FCC Posts

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Following a Tuesday meeting with President Obama’s nominee to head the Federal Communications Commission, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) removed the hold he placed on the Senate vote on the nomination thereby enabling confirmation of the nonimee.

Once Cruz lifted the hold on the nomination of Tom Wheeler to be chairman of the FCC, Wheeler’s nomination and that of Michael O’Rielly, a Republican nominee to a seat on the commission, the Senate approved both nominations.

In a statement issued by Cruz, the senator says Wheeler made clear that a proposal to have the FCC direct broadcasters to disclose who is funding political ads would not be “a priority” for the commission.

At issue was whether Wheeler would pursue policies proposed by the DISCLOSE Act, which died in 2012 after failing to receive the needed 60 votes to end a Republican filibuster on the proposal. The bill would have required the disclosure of anyone who donates to groups that spend more than $10,000 on campaign ads and other campaign costs.

On Oct. 17, Cruz, who is a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, placed the hold on Wheeler’s nomination because of the lack of answers by the nominee concerning how much authority the FCC has to direct broadcasters to disclose who is funding political ads. The block on Wheeler’s nomination, also blocked the vote to confirm O’Rielly as an FCC commissioner.

In a statement issued by Cruz, the senator says during the meeting with Wheeler held on Oct. 29, the nominee said “he had heard the unambiguous message that trying to impose the requirements of the DISCLOSE Act, absent congressional action, would imperil the commission’s vital statutory responsibilities, and he explicitly stated that doing so was ‘not a priority.’

“Based on those representations, I have lifted my hold on his nomination, and I look forward to working with him on the FCC to expand jobs and economic growth,” Cruz’s statement says.

The current FCC commissioners have issued statements congratulating Wheeler and O’Rielly on their confirmations.

Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said, Wheeler “brings a tremendous depth of experience, talent, and knowledge that will serve him well as the leader of this critically important agency. I have no doubt that he will be an outstanding FCC chairman. With his extensive public policy expertise and understanding of the communications landscape, Michael will certainly be an invaluable asset to the commission.”

Cruz’s release of the hold on Wheeler’s nomination comes at a time when the senator is seeking to mend relations with other Republican senators. On Wednesday, Cruz met with Senate Republicans and told his GOP colleagues he would stay out of their 2014 primary fights and not fundraise for the Senate Conservatives Fund, which is seeking to defeat incumbent Republican senators in their primary races.

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