Senate confirms Rep. Clyburn's daughter to FCC post

WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Friday unanimously approved Mignon Clyburn's appointment by President Barack Obama to a five-year term on the Federal Communications Commission.

The Senate confirmation vote places the eldest daughter of a powerful congressman, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, on a key oversight agency at a turbulent time for media and other telecommunications industries.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, noted Mignon Clyburn's more than decade-long service on the S.C. Public Service Commission in hailing her ascension to the FCC.

"As a seasoned state regulator, Ms. Clyburn brings with her a strong understanding of the telecommunications challenges rural Americans face every day," Rockefeller said.

In a dig at former Republican President George W. Bush, who Democrats accused of appointing industry insiders to the federal agency, Rockefeller challenged Clyburn and Attwell Baker, a Texan also confirmed by the Senate, "to show us that the FCC can put consumers first."

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, senior Republican on the commerce panel, alluded to past political controversy in noting that "our nation finally has a complete Federal Communications Commission."

At various points in Bush's eight-year White House tenure, one or more of the FCC's five seats went unfilled because of disputes with Democrats over his nominees or broader communications policies. The FCC now has three Democratic members and two Republican commissioners.

Mignon Clyburn, 47, fills one of three Democratic seats on an agency with broad authority to regulate Internet communications, the allocation of airwaves, public broadcasting standards and media ownership.

One of the FCC's early mandates under Obama is to take steps to extend broadband Internet access to rural parts of the country.

Rockefeller urged the agency Friday to ensure "that the American people can have access to first-class communications, no matter who they are or where they live."

Hutchison also alluded to Clyburn's biography in praising her confirmation.

"Mignon Clyburn's background in print media provides her with an important perspective to understand the challenges facing traditional media outlets in these difficult economic times," Hutchison said.

Clyburn was publisher and editor of the Coastal Times, a weekly newspaper in Charleston.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, applauded Obama "for making an excellent selection" in Clyburn and noted her state regulatory background.

"Mignon has the intellect and experience to excel in this key position," Graham said.

Wesley Denton, a spokesman for Sen. Jim DeMint, said the Greenville Republican "has supported her nomination throughout the process and is pleased the Senate acted unanimously today."

As Rep. Clyburn and his wife, Emily, looked on last week, DeMint, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Graham introduced Mignon Clyburn at her confirmation hearing before the panel.