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Biden-Harris Announce FCC Review Team

Posted by CommLaw | Nov 17, 2020 | 0 Comments

President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris have announced their review team for the Federal Communications Commission and other federal agencies, in preparation for the transition to their administration. As noted by the Biden-Harris transition news release, the review teams are “responsible for understanding the operations of each agency, ensuring a smooth transfer of power, and preparing [Biden and Harris] and their cabinet to hit the ground running on Day One.”

The FCC review team consists of John Williams (Team Lead), who currently serves as senior counsel and parliamentarian to the House Judiciary Committee; Mignon Clyburn, a former FCC Commissioner (2009-2018); Edward “Smitty” Smith, an attorney in private practice; and Paul de Sa, a telecom consultant. Williams, Smith, and de Sa all previously worked at the FCC during the Obama Administration. Smith also previously served at the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy matters.

Following the transition to the Biden-Harris Administration, we anticipate that FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the senior Democrat on the Commission, will be named interim Chair, pending Senate confirmation of a permanent Chair nominated by Biden.

There is, of course, much speculation about the future composition of the Commission, whose five members are subject to Senate confirmation. Current Republican Commissioner Mike O'Rielly, whose re-nomination was withdrawn by President Trump earlier this year, will soon leave the agency, and current Chair Ajit Pai, whose term expires next year, is expected to depart prior to Biden's inauguration, leaving a 2-1 Democratic advantage. The term of the remaining Republican Commissioner, Brendan Carr, expires in 2023. In the meantime, advancing the nomination of O'Rielly's replacement, Nathan Simington, is not considered a priority of Senate Majority Leader McConnell.

Consequently, once in office, Biden may have the opportunity to nominate a new Chair in addition to two Republicans to round out the full complement of Commissioners. Biden could, however, avoid a nominating battle by naming as Chair either Rosenworcel or Geoffrey Starks (the second current Democratic commissioner), both of whom already have received Senate confirmation.

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