A group of more than 30 female members of Congress are publicly calling on President Biden to select Jessica Rosenworcel as the permanent Chair of the Federal Communications Commission. Rosenworcel was named Acting Chair last month, but the lawmakers see her as the right choice to break the FCC’s glass ceiling.
“In its nearly 90-year history, the FCC has embarrassingly never had a woman as a permanent chair. This is an unacceptable reality for an agency that oversees one-sixth of our nation’s economy and makes consequential decisions that impact all Americans,” they wrote in a letter to the White House. “While Jessica Rosenworcel is the second woman to be Acting Chair of the FCC, we urge the administration to nominate her to the permanent role of Chairwoman,” the group added.
Former Commissioner Mignon Clyburn also was a caretaker of the FCC when then-President Obama selected her as Acting Chair in 2013, when she became the first woman to have led the agency.
Rosenworcel was appointed Acting Chair of the FCC by President Biden last month, following the departure of Chairman Ajit Pai on Inauguration Day. Rosenworcel is the senior Democrat on the Commission. She has been at the FCC since 2012, albeit with a brief departure in 2017.
The group of 33 members of the Democratic Women’s Caucus said Rosenworcel has spent years focusing on the unique needs of women that they say have traditionally been ignored in technology and telecommunications policy. “She has already hit the ground running by taking several bold and important actions as Acting Chairwoman, has been unanimously confirmed by the Senate twice, and is perfectly qualified to be the first Chairwoman of the FCC,” wrote the members in a letter to White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain.
Among the issues that solidified Rosenworcel’s support among Democratic lawmakers was her embrace of the so-called “homework gap” to describe the 17 million American children who lack access to high-speed internet, and her opposition to the Trump FCC’s gutting of the subsidized phone and internet service program for low-income Americans, which is said to be critical for domestic violence survivors. Prior to joining the FCC, Rosenworcel served as Senior Communications Counsel for Democrats on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
The White House has not said whether Rosenworcel is being given a trial run or not. If she were to get the post on a permanent basis, it would be with the approval of the National Association of Broadcasters. “She is a dedicated and experienced public servant who has demonstrated great aptitude in leading communications policy during her tenure at the Commission,” said NAB President Gordon Smith when Rosenworcel was given the job on a temporary basis last month.
Rosenworcel said last week said she has a “slate of things” she would like to do with broadcasting, but said “big-ticket items” will need to wait because the FCC currently has a 2-2 deadlock with two Democrat and two Republican commissioners, meaning anything partisan-charged would lack the votes needed. Rosenworcel said even as larger policy issues are sidelined for now, the FCC continues to make day-to-day decisions. “We have issued a range of decisions at the [Media] Bureau-level regarding broadcast licenses,” she said.