Genachowski to Commerce?

When Jon Huntsman decided to return home from his position as Barack Obama’s ambassador to China, he set off a chain reaction that may end up quieting the effort at the FCC to expand its Net Neutrality regulation.  The White House has decided to nominate Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to fill Huntsman’s old job:

President Obama is going to make history Tuesday by naming Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be U.S. ambassador to China, making him the first American of known Chinese ancestry to be named to that post.

Several news outlets are reporting that the president will make the announcement.

As the former governor of Washington state, Locke created relationships with senior Chinese officials.

As NPR guesses, Locke won’t have many problems gaining confirmation to the new post.  Locke has plenty of experience with China, which makes him more prepared than most ambassadors in most administrations; those posts normally get filled by fundraisers, except in more critical posts.  China is undoubtedly one of the most important postings in the foreign service, and the Senate will give Obama plenty of leeway on an appointment regardless of political perspectives, even the Republicans.  Locke has been a low-key member of Obama’s Cabinet, and should have a quick, low-key confirmation in the new post.

That leaves the Cabinet position open, and The Hill reports that FCC chair Julius Genachowski is on the short list:

The White House is considering FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski as a potential successor to Gary Locke as Secretary of Commerce, according to tech industry sources and prominent Democrats close to the White House.

Genachowski is among a list of names the White House has floated internally, along with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, other government officials, and top business executives, the sources said.

Seriously?  Not only has Genachowski become a lightning rod for controversy through his repeated attempts to conduct end-runs around Congress, but he has little significant experience to recommend him as a Cabinet Secretary.  The FCC chairmanship is the most significant post Genachowski has held in government, where usually Cabinet positions go to former governors and members of Congress, people who have proven experience in either running large organizations for longer than two years, or proven experience in political consensus-building, or both.  Genachowski’s two years at FCC hardly qualifies in any sense for a Cabinet-level position.

Furthermore, Genachowski will have to go through another confirmation hearing, and it will be as controversial as Locke’s will be routine.  Recall that Congress — when Democrats controlled both chambers by wide margins — had to slap down Genachowski when he first tried to impose Net Neutrality on the Internet industry.  Does Obama think that nominating someone who attempted to arrogate powers from Congress will get a hearty endorsement in taking over the Department of Commerce?  Republicans will almost certainly attempt to block Genachowski, and a few Democrats running in 2012 might be tempted to join them.

Still, it would mean that Genachowski would no longer be able to conduct mischief at the FCC.  But it also gives Obama an opportunity to get an FCC chair with less visibility to push the same agenda.

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