Reid: McConnell Must Keep His Word On FCC Nominee

“They promised me that they would confirm Rosenworcel the next Congress … I’m sorry to report to the world and to the Senate that I was wrong. Over the last 16 months, the Republican leader has refused to fulfill his commitment. He hasn’t kept his word.

“This isn’t an issue of my being offended … What I’m concerned about is what it means for the Senate and what it means for a human being, a woman who works every day very hard trying to do the right thing for a very important part of our country.”

“I understand the Republican leader has a tough job. I know that. I’ve had that job a lot longer than he has. Because of the dysfunction in his caucus, it’s difficult – I’m told and we see – for him to get things done. But that’s no excuse for someone not keeping their word.“

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today about Senator McConnell’s failure to live up to his word and confirm FCC nominee Jessica Rosenworcel. Below are his remarks:

It’s very difficult for me to be here today and to talk about what I’m going to talk about. Because I believe that the Senate operates only when there is trust among the members of this body. A man that I served with, the former Republican Majority Leader Bob Dole, said:

“I knew that nothing else I did would matter very much if I ever forfeited the trust of my colleagues. As we all learn around here, if you don’t keep your word, it doesn’t make much difference what agenda you try to advance.”

The trust of which Senator Dole spoke has been broken. The Republican leader broke his word to me.

In December of 2014, the Republican leader and the senior senator from South Dakota, Senator Thune, came to me here on the floor and asked me if I would agree to confirm a Republican commissioner to the Federal Communications Commission. The nominee’s name was Michael O’Rielly, and he was a longtime staff member of Senator Kyl and also Senator Cornyn. Senator Cornyn was still here, of course, and Senator Kyl had left, but we all had great respect for Jon Kyl, being from my neighboring state of Arizona.

And so I said, this is kind of an unusual request, since everyone knows that the two leaders, when we have a commission that we’re going to staff with our selections, that we always pair them: One Democrat, one Republican. So I said to my friend from South Dakota and my friend from Kentucky, that that doesn’t sound like the right thing to do for me. But they talked for a while longer. My heart said “do it.” My head said “don’t.”

My heart won, and I relented after having made an arrangement, an agreement with them that we would go ahead and confirm O’Rielly right then. I would agree to do that provided that when the new Congress convened in less than a month, we would take care of the Democrat,  Jessica Rosenworcel. That was the agreement. That’s how we would pair one Republican with one Democrat, as is our custom.

But I repeat: I agreed that we would confirm O’Rielly right then. They promised me that they would confirm Rosenworcel the next Congress. I had my staff with me. I don’t think anyone denies the conversation. I didn’t have to agree to this. But I did because the Republican leader said he would do his part and get Rosenworcel confirmed.

I’m sorry to report to the world and to the Senate that I was wrong. Over the last 16 months, the Republican leader has refused to fulfill his commitment. He hasn’t kept his word.

The Republicans assumed control of the Senate in January 2015, and I waited patiently for the Republican leader and Senator Thune to keep their word on the Rosenworcel nomination.

Senator John Thune has served here a long time. I know him well. Worked against him once, was successful, worked against him a second time, wasn’t successful. He beat my dear friend, Tom Daschle. But Senator Thune’s a fine man. He and I used the gym together in the House. To his credit, Senator Thune did everything he could to fulfill the commitment. He was being pressured not to do anything, I’m sure. But he called his committee together – he’s chairman of the Commerce Committee – and reported Rosenworcel’s nomination out. There, though, is where his authority stops. He doesn’t have power to do anymore. He did what he felt he was obligated to do, and I felt he was obligated to do. It’s now Senator McConnell’s problem.

But nearly an entire year went by before Ms. Rosenworcel was sent to the floor. In the closing days of the December 2015 – about five months ago – I reminded Senator McConnell of his commitment to quickly advance the nomination. He told me that the Senate would confirm her when we returned in January 2016. But January 2016 passed without action.

Before we left for the President’s Day recess, I spoke again with Senators McConnell and Thune about Ms. Rosenworcel’s nomination. But February passed without any movement on the nomination. As did March. Now, here we are 21 days into April, and still no confirmation.

I have waited for Republicans to do the right thing. I have held off coming to the floor for months. What else would I do? What else could I do? I held off, hoping the Republican leader would deliver on his pledge that he made to me. I spoke with him yesterday to again urge him to move Ms. Rosenworcel’s nomination. He said to me, “we’ll do it next year.”

Next year she’s out of a job. Jessica Rosenworcel’s term expires at the end of this year. Her career will basically be over because of my accepting my counterpart’s word. I told the Republican leader and I told Senator Thune that I wouldn’t remain silent forever on this. I told them both yesterday I was going to come to the floor.

I hope the Republican leader is aware of the words of Bob Dole, which I read earlier:

“I knew that nothing else I did would matter very much if I ever forfeited the trust of my colleagues. As we all learn around here, if you don’t keep your word, it doesn’t make much difference what agenda you try to advance.”

So to say I’m disappointed is an understatement. The commitment was made to me a year and a half ago. We have to keep our trust.

This isn’t an issue of my being offended. I’ve been offended, you’ve been offended. We have all been offended. It’s not a personal affront to me. If it is, I’ll have to bear that. I think it is, but I can handle that. What I’m concerned about is what it means for the Senate and what it means for a human being, a woman who works every day very hard trying to do the right thing for a very important part of our country.

I understand the Republican leader has a tough job. I know that. I’ve had that job a lot longer than he has. Because of the dysfunction in his caucus, it’s difficult – I’m told and we see – for him to get things done. But that’s no excuse for someone not keeping their word.

The Republicans leader could go into executive session like that. We would agree to that. He could do this in many different ways. So I still expect him to live up to his commitment and get Commissioner Rosenworcel confirmed.

I don’t want this to be a bad time for the Senate that continues. It’s a bad day for the Senate now because you just have to keep your word. That’s all we have around here.