(Adds details on Giancarlo for CFTC commissioner)
By Jeff Mason and Alina Selyukh
WASHINGTON Aug 1 President Barack Obama plans
to nominate Senate aide Michael O'Rielly to fill the second
Republican seat on the Federal Communications Commission, the
White House said on Thursday, bringing the agency closer to
operating at full capacity.
The U.S. Senate has yet to confirm Democrat Tom Wheeler as
the FCC's chairman and Senate Republicans have indicated they
wanted to wait for O'Rielly's nomination to pair the two for a
confirmation vote after the chamber returns from an August
recess in September.
The White House on Thursday also said Obama plans to
nominate J. Christopher Giancarlo, an attorney and currently the
executive vice president of GFI Group, as a commissioner for the
Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Patrick Pizzella, a
former assistant secretary of labor, as a member of the Federal
Labor Relations Authority.
Giancarlo would be the first commissioner from the swaps
industry, a market dominated by investment banks, with brokers
such as GFI playing an essential role as trading platforms.
The CFTC was given extensive new powers to overhaul the $630
trillion swaps market after the 2007-09 credit meltdown, and has
been writing scores of new rules to change the structure of the
FCC, meanwhile, has been in a holding mode on the most
controversial and critical issues such as planning for the
upcoming large auction of airwaves under acting Chairwoman
Wheeler, tapped to become the new permanent chairman,
received a vote of approval from the Senate Commerce Committee
on Tuesday, although Republican Senator Ted Cruz warned he might
hold up Wheeler's confirmation until the nominee voices a more
specific opinion on the power of the FCC over disclosure of
political donors behind election TV ads.
The nomination of O'Rielly is expected to speed up the
confirmation of Wheeler, an industry veteran who is an Obama
fundraiser and adviser, and a former cable and wireless
O'Rielly has spent nearly two decades as a Republican
staffer in Congress, most recently serving as a top aide to
Senator John Cornyn of Texas. He has also advised former Senator
John Sununu of New Hampshire and former House Commerce Committee
Chairman Tom Bliley of Virginia on telecommunications issues.
Industry insiders, noting that much of O'Rielly's work has
been done outside of the spotlight, described him as deeply
knowledgeable about the issues he would address at the FCC
thanks to years of experience on Capitol Hill. But several also
chose the word "prickly" in talking about his personal style.
O'Rielly, who had in the past been on the short list for FCC
commissioner, would join Ajit Pai as the second member of the
Republican minority on the five-member panel, replacing former
Commissioner Robert McDowell.
"The challenge for the next Republican commissioner is going
to be trying to find the balance between being effective and
shaping policy versus making a statement and laying the
groundwork for a court appeal or congressional action," said
McDowell, who is now at the Hudson Institute think tank.
"That always breeds a tension between principles and
pragmatism and he will have to balance that."
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Alina Selyukh; Additional
reporting by Douwe Miedema; Editing by Eric Walsh and Eric