Grassley hints FCC holds could be lifted

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) suggested Wednesday he could soon lift holds on two nominees to the Federal Communications Commission.

Grassley wants the FCC to provide documents related to its review of LightSquared’s proposal to build a 4G wireless network. The FCC dumped 13,000 documents earlier this week to Grassley, and the senator said he could release the holds if more documents were forthcoming.

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"[I]t looks a little bit different today," he said of the situation. "We'll get another [document dump] very shortly, and if it continues to be helpful, maybe by the following week we'll be able to move."

But Grassley stopped short of guaranteeing a release, adding "I can't make that judgment now."

Grassley has kept holds on nominees Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel since they were voted out of the Senate Commerce Committee last November. He wants records of the FCC's internal deliberations that led to its decision in late 2010 to grant LightSquared a conditional waiver to operate a hybrid satellite-ground network.

The waiver was rescinded after the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) found the network would interfere with GPS devices.

Grassley’s office initially said the documents released by the FCC earlier this week were mostly useless public information. But on Wednesday, Grassley told The Hill his staff was starting to find useful information.

“It seems like there are some valuable documents in there," Grassley said, adding that he now sees "a little more effort … from the FCC to cooperate than if you'd asked me 24 hours ago."

Grassley told The Hill that he's specifically looking to see why the decision in 2010 was "hurried," whether any consideration was given to interference with GPS before NTIA stepped in and whether there was any involvement by the White House in the decision.

Grassley is also looking for evidence of a "political quid pro quo," he said, but wouldn't comment on whether he believed one took place.

While he was encouraged by the latest documents released by the FCC, Grassley also said he's still looking to talk to FCC staffers about the waiver process, and that the commission has gone back on promises that those staffers and possibly commissioners would be made available for questioning.

Grassley has come under some pressure from Republican senators to lift the holds, according to Senate aides. Grassley says his colleagues have offered support for his efforts.