Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has chosen his replacement for outgoing Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, according to sources with direct knowledge of the selection process.
Schumer is expected to nominate Geoffrey Starks for the role. He is currently serving as the assistant bureau chief in the FCC investigations and hearings division. Politico Pro was the first to report on Starks’ likely appointment.
While the president does the formal nominating, he traditionally yields to the opposing party’s Senate leader for two of the five seats. Customary protocol ensures the party in power for the executive branch gets three of the seats. Clyburn is a Democrat, and her departure would render a 3-1 balance. Former President Barack Obama, for example, officially nominated Commissioner Ajit Pai, now chairman in 2012 at the request of then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
President Donald Trump has maintained the bureaucratic tradition of the party line balance by nominating both current FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr, a Republican, and Rosenworcel, a Democrat, indicating he is likely to do so again. This means Schumer essentially has unilateral control over who is ultimately tapped, while confirmations are still required.
When The Daily Caller News Foundation first reported on potential candidates, sources identified four candidates, including Starks, a former senior counsel for the Department of Justice. People involved in the selection process said that Clint Odom, legislative director for California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, and Starks were the leading contenders, with the latter having a slight edge. Others being reportedly considered at the time were Jessica González, deputy director and senior counsel for the left-leaning advocacy group Free Press, and Ernesto Falcon, legislative counsel at the nonprofit digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
It is not clear when exactly Clyburn is going to step down, but she will have to by the end of 2018 after letting her own term expire in June. Timing of the official nomination could be critical as political battles over confirmations could ensue, depending on other coinciding squabbles.
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