GOP House Chairmen Blast FCC Chairman's Refusal to Testify

By Rudy Takala | February 25, 2015 | 11:37am EST


President Obama congratulates Tom Wheeler, his nominee for the Federal Communications Commission, in the White House State Dining Room on May 1, 2013. (AP File photo)

( – The Republican chairmen of two powerful House committees blasted Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday for refusing to testify before their committees prior to the commission’s upcoming vote on net neutrality.

“We are deeply disappointed in Chairman Wheeler’s decision” not to testify," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said in a joint statement.

“As Chairman Wheeler pushes forward with plans to regulate the Internet, he still refuses to directly answer growing concerns about how the rules were developed, how they are structured, and how they will stand up to judicial scrutiny. After hearing from over four million Americans on such an important topic to our economic and cultural future, it's striking that when Congress seeks transparency, Chairman Wheeler opts against it.

"The last time a rule of this magnitude was voted on by the FCC, then-Senator Obama was motivated to call for transparency at the commission," the congressmen said. "We continue that call today."

The FCC is set to vote on the proposed net neutrality regulations on Thursday. However, no one outside of the commissioners and their staff are permitted to see the regulations until they are passed. Even members of Congress are barred from reading the 332-page draft.

After a Wall Street Journal piece earlier this month suggested that the FCC chairman improperly collaborated with White House officials, the House Oversight Committee and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs demanded that Wheeler turn over his communications with the White House.

The Senate request asked for draft proposals that had been circulated, as well as information into the mindset of Chairman Wheeler and his FCC colleagues - including whether they were aware of what the Wall Street Journal called an “unusual, secretive effort inside the White House” to pressure the independent agency to pass net neutrality.

The House Oversight Committee requested information about Wheeler's contact with Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council; Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Jason Furman; Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Larry Strickling; former White House aide Tom Power; and former counselor to the President John Podesta.

As of Tuesday, congressional staff were still examining the documents Wheeler had turned over. They were not made available to the media.

Seventy-nine percent of Americans favor making the FCC plan public prior to a vote, according to a survey conducted by Hart Research Associates last week. The poll also found that only 9 percent of Americans favor passage of the net neutrality regulations currently before the commission.

Related: Commissioners Slam FCC, FEC for Latest In-Tandem Attempts to Regulate Internet

Related: More Americans Believe in Witches, UFOs Than Support FCC's Net Neutrality Proposal

Related: FCC Commissioner Speaks Out Against Federal Regulation of Internet

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