Politico late yesterday reported that Democratic FCC chairman Tom Wheeler told Senate minority leader Harry Reid that he’ll (finally) step down from his post—but on the condition that Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel be reappointed for her second term on the commission. Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica heard the same story from an FCC spokesperson last night.
After Donald Trump’s surprise win in the election, Wheeler found himself in a position to influence the political bent of the commission in 2017. It’s customary for the FCC chair to step down so that the new incoming president can nominate a replacement, but Wheeler technically has another year in his term as a commissioner and has so far refused. Hence the 11th hour drama before Congress departs for break next week.
If Wheeler steps down and Rosenworcel is reappointed, and Trump appoints (and Congress approves) a Republican chairman, the GOP would hold a 3-2 majority on the commission. This would come in handy when the GOP-controlled FCC tries to roll back Wheeler’s landmark network neutrality ruling of 2015, which dictated that the internet be regulated like a public utility.