So, according to a report in Automotive News, what NHTSA honcho David Strickland wants is to have Congress bestow the authority on some agency to make such laws. For now, the recommendations NHTSA drafts are only just that – recommendations. Automakers aren't bound by them.
Not that it should or will stop Strickland's minions, but 37 states and our nation's capital already have laws – with teeth – addressing the use of phones while driving. If our time on the roads is any indication, those laws are almost universally ignored by police, and we can't see how a federal fiat would change that, but such laws are on the books. Strickland has testified in front of Congress on the matter, however, no one expects movement on it anytime soon.