The Senate Commerce Committee has announced confirmation hearings for Larry Strickling as head of NTIA and Aneesh Chopra for CTO. Hopefully, swift confirmation by the full Senate will follow.
I really can't stress too much how important it is to get the Administration up to full strength. Which is why the delay in confirmation for Genachowski, Adelstein, and Clyburn are is unfortunate. Everyone understands the time pressure to start spending stimulus money. But that hardly covers the damage of having the major telecom and IT elements of the Administration stuck in a holding pattern. I'm sitting here at the Free Press Changing Media Summit where everyone is debating the urgency of resolving dozens of critical issues — from the issue du jour of saving newspapers to the insanely detailed problem of special access. But we can't even start to work on these issues in a substantive way until the Obama nominees get confirmed and installed.
The holdup for the Ds on the FCC, and by extension for Adelstein to move to RUS, is the inability of the Rs to settle on an acceptable nominee for the open R slot — a discussion informed to some degree by the discussion on whether the Rs will want McDowell reconfirmed or will want a second new R Commissioner slot. While I do not believe the Republicans are deliberately delaying (there's no reason to, and the debate is real), the effect is to hobble an incredibly tech savvy administration that wants to use new technology as the cornerstone of numerous policies from healthcare reform to job creation to education.
Nothing stops Rockefeller from calling a hearing and moving the nominated Ds forward — the Ds are in the majority after all. This nearly happened last week, but Rockefeller pulled back when the Rs promised to get their act together and settle on someone soon. This makes excellent sense. It's always better to work collegially rather than run roughshod over the opposition — as the Republicans learned the hard way.
But the continuing delay imposes an increasing cost, and cannot go on forever. Confirming Genachowski would free Adelstien to go to RUS and ensure that all three federal agencies involved in such critical areas as broadband stimulus, the national broadband plan, spectrum reform, etc. have their actual official bosses and can finally get down to business rather than focus on what must get done while leaving everything else on hold. If the Republicans can't settle on someone by the return from the Memorial Day recess, it may be time to sacrifice collegiality to the necessity of getting things done.