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Abernathy Resignation Could Cause GOP Minority At FCC
The announced resignation of FCC commissioner Kathleen Abernathy this week could end up leaving chairman Kevin Martin in a brief political minority on the five-person commission.
The party in control of the White House is entitled to three of the five commission slots, but the Bush administration's failure to fill GOP openings may put Martin briefly in a minority. The deficit is not expected to affect any planned regulatory moves by Martin, but it could slow down FCC business as the agency waits for Senate approval of new nominees.
Abernathy, who had been expected to leave and had been serving on an already-expired term, submitted her resignation to President Bush earlier this week, effective Dec. 9. While Bush has nominated Teneessee regulator Deborah Tate to fill the commission spot left open by the departure of former chairman Michael Powell last March, the Senate isn't scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for her until Dec. 13, according to the office of Senate Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.
And still unresolved is who the Bush administration might nominate to fill Abernathy's position. While the President's office had a short list of potential nominees prepared this summer, Stevens recently made public statements about finding a candidate himself for the last open spot. Two earlier Stevens proteges had been considered, but both declined the nominations for personal reasons.
It is possible that President Bush could make a short-term recess appointment to the FCC after Congress adjourns its current session, a move that would not require Senate approval. Martin, who has been stuck with a 2-2 deadlock since taking over as chairman, has nevertheless been able to secure support from Democratic commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein to pass several regulatory measures, including one designed to give big telephone companies more freedom in their broadband business and another to more tightly regulate the emergency services support of Voice over IP providers, as well as approval of the two big mergers between SBC and AT&T and Verizon and MCI.
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