By Jeff Mason and Alina Selyukh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama plans to nominate Senate aide Michael O'Rielly to fill the second Republican seat on the Federal Communications Commission, the White House said on Thursday, bringing the agency closer to operating at full capacity.
The Senate has yet to confirm Democrat Tom Wheeler as the FCC's chairman and Senate Republicans have indicated they wanted to wait for O'Rielly's nomination to pair the two for a confirmation vote after the chamber returns from the August recess in September.
The White House on Thursday also said Obama plans to nominate J. Christopher Giancarlo, an attorney and currently the executive vice president of GFI Group, as a commissioner for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Patrick Pizzella, a former assistant secretary of Labor, as a member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
FCC has been in a holding mode on the most controversial and critical issues such as planning for the upcoming large auction of airwaves under Acting Chair Mignon Clyburn.
Wheeler, tapped to become new permanent chairman, received a vote of approval from the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday, although Republican Senator Ted Cruz warned he might hold his confirmation until he voices a more specific opinion on the power of the FCC over disclosure of political donors behind election TV ads.
The nomination of O'Rielly is expected to speed up the confirmation of Wheeler, an industry veteran who is an Obama fundraiser and adviser and former cable and wireless lobbyist.
O'Rielly has spent nearly two decades as a Republican staffer in Congress, most recently serving as a top aide to Senator John Cornyn of Texas. He has also advised on telecommunications to former Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire and former House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley of Virginia.
Industry insiders, noting that much of O'Rielly's work has been done outside of the spotlight, described him as deeply knowledgeable about the issues he would address at the FCC thanks for the years of experience on Capitol Hill. But several also picked the word "prickly" in talking of his personal style.
O'Rielly, who had in the past been on the short list for FCC commissioner, would join Ajit Pai as the second member of the Republican minority on the five-member panel, replacing former Commissioner Robert McDowell.
"The challenge for the next Republican commissioner is going to be trying to find the balance between being effective and shaping policy versus making a statement and laying the groundwork for a court appeal or congressional action," said McDowell, who is now at Hudson Institute think tank.
"That always breeds a tension between principles and pragmatism and he will have to balance that."
(Editing by Eric Walsh)