Federal Communications Commission chairman Kathleen Abernathy has told the White House that she will leave the post on Dec. 9.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Federal Communications Commission chairman Kathleen Abernathy has told the White House that she will leave the post on Dec. 9.
Abernathy's decision forces the Senate to speed up its confirmation of a new GOP commissioner and the reconfirmation of a Democrat or face a commission in which the Republican chairman is, in effect, a minority member.
The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, told the Associated Press his panel probably won't act on the nomination before Dec. 12. With the Senate considering a Supreme Court nominee and a nomination for Federal Reserve chairman, it's not clear how fast the chamber would act on new nominations.
In a statement, Abernathy, who would have been required to leave the commission at the end of this congressional session, said she informed President Bush of her intention to leave.
Currently, the commission comprises two Republicans, Abernathy and chairman Kevin Martin, and two Democrats, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. Bush has said he intends to nominate Tennessee regulator Deborah Tate for the current open seat and renominate Copps, who would leave the commission at the end of the next congressional session.
By telling Bush she wants to leave the commission next month, Abernathy appears to be signaling to the White House that she has no desire for a recess appointment that would give the Senate more time to confirm the new nominees.
Abernathy was considered then-chairman Michael Powell's most reliable vote. In her statement, she praised deregulatory tone set by the commission.
"During my four-year tenure, the commission has achieved a great deal," she said. "First and foremost, our decisions increasingly reflect the wisdom of relying on competition rather than regulation as the best means of assuring that consumers get the telecommunications services they want at affordable rates."
Despite often casting opposing votes, Copps praised Abernathy, calling her a "friend."
"Through it all, Kathleen has been a pleasure to work with -- smart, insightful and willing to walk an extra mile in search of workable solutions to sometimes seemingly intractable problems," he said. "Her grace, poise and good humor also facilitated the work of the commission and certainly made that work more enjoyable."
Even if Tate and Copps are confirmed, the commission will still be under strength as Tate was nominated to take Powell's place. Abernathy's departure means that commission still has one GOP spot to fill.