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Senate Confirms Wheeler as FCC Chief After Cruz Ends Hold

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), was nominated in May by President Barack Obama. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The U.S. Senate today confirmed Tom Wheeler, a former cable and wireless trade association executive, as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission after a Republican lawmaker ended his hold on the nomination.

Wheeler replaces Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, who stepped down as FCC chairman in May. The Senate also confirmed Michael O’Rielly, a Republican, as a member of the commission. He replaces Robert McDowell who also left the agency in May. All vacancies on the five-member commission have been filled.

Senator Ted Cruz on Oct. 17 pledged to stall Wheeler’s nomination. The Texas Republican had asked during a hearing in June whether Wheeler would use the agency to force broader disclosures of who pays for political advertisements. Wheeler didn’t give specific answers to Cruz’s followup questions, Sean Rushton, a spokesman for the senator, said in an Oct. 17 e-mail.

Wheeler, in a meeting today, said that crafting rules to expand disclosure of who pays for political advertisements wasn’t a priority, Cruz said in an e-mailed statement.

“Based on those representations, I have lifted my hold on his nomination,” Cruz said in the statement.

Wheeler, a 67-year-old venture capitalist, was nominated in May by President Barack Obama. In a statement tonight, Wheeler said he was humbled by the Senate’s confirmation and singled out the Internet as a key focus for the agency as he takes the helm.

“We must all dedicate ourselves to encouraging its growth, expanding what it enables, and assuring its users’ rights are respected,” Wheeler said in the e-mailed statement.

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