Grassley to hold up Obama's nominees to FCC over LightSquared documents

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) will object to two nominees to the Federal Communications Commission over the agency's refusal to turn over documents related to wireless company LightSquared.

"I will object to proceeding to the nomination because the FCC continues to stonewall a document request I submitted to the FCC over six months ago on April 27, 2011, regarding their actions related to LightSquared and Harbinger Capital," Grassley said on Thursday, referring to the primary investor in LightSquared.

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"It not only sets a dangerous precedent for a federal agency to unilaterally set the rules on how it engages with Congress — it also prevents any meaningful ability for the vast majority of Congress to inform themselves of how an agency works."

A spokeswoman for Grassley said the senator will place a hold on the nominees that will take effect once the nominations reach the Senate floor.

President Obama nominated Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel to serve as commissioners on the FCC on Monday. Rosenworcel has worked for Democrats previously, while Pai has worked for Republicans. Before Grassley announced his intent to place a hold, observers widely expected the nominees to easily receive confirmation.

LightSquared plans to launch a wholesale wireless broadband service, but tests earlier this year revealed its network interferes with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. The company is currently undergoing a new round of testing to determine if technical modifications have addressed the interference problem. 

The FCC has granted LightSquared a conditional waiver to move forward, but officials have said they will not allow the company to launch its network until the GPS issues are resolved.

Republican lawmakers began calling for an investigation of the company's lobbying efforts after emails revealed LightSquared had communicated with senior White House aides. The administration also reportedly asked an Air Force general to change his testimony in a congressional briefing to make it more supportive of the company.

"I strongly believe that it is critical for Congress to have access to documents in order to conduct vigorous and independent oversight. It is unfortunate that this administration, which has pledged to be the most transparent in history, disagrees," Grassley said. "As long as they continue to do so, I will be forced to take steps like this in order to ensure that Congress receives a complete picture of this administration’s actions."