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Sen. Ted Cruz blocks confirmation of Tom Wheeler, nominee for FCC chairman

President Barack Obama's nominee for Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler, listens during the announcement of his nomination, Wednesday, May 1, 2013, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) lost his battle against the new health-care law but he already has a new target in sight: the Federal Communications Commission.

The tea party member late Wednesday blocked the confirmation of Tom Wheeler as chairman of the FCC, saying he wanted greater assurance from President Obama’s nominee that the agency wouldn’t require more funding disclosures for political TV ads. Cruz has said that such free speech should be protected.

When asked about the issue in a June confirmation hearing, Wheeler demurred, saying he would study the issue.

With the resumption of government operations this week, the confirmations of Wheeler and another Republican nominee were expected to go forward Wednesday evening. But Cruz, fresh off a marathon fight against the health-care law, the debt ceiling and reopening the government, decided to stand in the way.

“Yes, 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,” Cruz’s spokesman Sean Rushton said in a statement.

SiriusXM host Julie Mason and Buzzfeed's John Stanton weigh in on what the government shutdown has done for Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Tex.) image and what this all means for his future in politics. (The Washington Post)

Cruz’s office said Wheeler has “expressed his readiness to revisit the Senator’s questions.” But it is unclear when Wheeler will communicate with Cruz and whether his answers will mollify the senator’s concerns, analysts say.

That could delay issues pending at the FCC, analysts say, as controversial decisions related to a major government auction of television airwaves are likely to be postponed until the full five-member panel is in place.

“The confirmation delay seems likely to last until at least late October and could drag on longer, potentially slowing FCC consideration of some key matters,” Stifel Nicolaus analysts Christopher King and David Kaut wrote in a research note.

An FCC spokesman declined to comment on Cruz’s action.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday pushed for fast approval of several nominees that had been delayed by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

He said holding up FCC and other political appointees continued to hinder the government.

We saw during the shutdown the difficulties experienced by families, businesses and the economy when the obstruction of a reckless few prevails and causes the lapse of important government services. If the government is going to fully function for the American people, we have to get these highly qualified nominees confirmed now,” Rockefeller said in a statement.

Follow The Post’s new tech blog, The Switch, where technology and policy connect.

Cecilia Kang is a senior technology correspondent for The Washington Post.



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