Democrats demand changes to FCC Republican nominee's confirmation

Democrats demand changes to FCC Republican nominee's confirmation
© Greg Nash

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is one step closer to being fully staffed, but Democrats are fighting Republicans on details for Republican nominee Brendan Carr's confirmation.

During a hearing on Wednesday, members of the Senate Commerce Committee voted to approve the confirmations of Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Brendan Carr to the FCC panel of Commissioners. Current Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s reconfirmation to the FCC was also approved by lawmakers.

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The trio’s confirmation will proceed to a Senate-wide vote, requiring a simple majority for approval. If it passes, the Commission will be at full quorum, going from two Republicans and one Democrat to three Republicans and two Democrats.

Despite advancing, Democrats contested Pai and Carr’s confirmations. Some Democrats, including the ranking member on the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet, Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), voted against Pai’s renomination.

Democrats voted along party lines against Carr’s nomination, saying that while they had no issue with Carr being nominated to his first year-and-a-half term, they did not yet want to agree to approving a second five-year term.

The Commerce Committee’s ranking member, Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate Dems rip Trump after Putin news conference Senate Dems lock in million in TV airtime Doug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee MORE (D-Fla.) noted Senate leaders of both parties were negotiating a deal for a final vote on the confirmations. According to Nelson, the agreement would only include approval of Carr’s first year-and-a-half term.

“It is my clear understanding that [Senate Democratic Leader Charles] Schumer [N.Y.] and the majority leader [Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Overnight Defense: Washington reeling from Trump, Putin press conference Feehery: The long game MORE (R-Ky.)] are working out an arrangement, otherwise it will not go forward on the floor, of a package that includes a lot of nominations and that will be only for the first term for Brendan Carr,” Nelson said.

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellPoll: Majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Protests and anger: Washington in turmoil as elections near Dem senator says Supreme Court vote could be 'career ending' for lawmakers MORE (D-Wash.) also noted her concerns over Carr having previously served in Pai’s office and said that she would like to check back in a year and a half to make sure that he has “independent views” from the commissioner.

Other Democrats cited precedent as reason for pushing back against approving Carr to two terms.

“We’re trying to keep the traditions of the committee intact,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Mueller indicts Russians for DNC hack | US officially lifts ZTE ban | AT&T CEO downplays merger challenge | Microsoft asks for rules on facial recognition technology | Dems want probe into smart TVs Dems push FTC to investigate smart TVs over privacy concerns Hillicon Valley: Hacker tried to sell military docs on dark web | Facebook fined over Cambridge Analytica | US closer to lifting ZTE ban | Trump, Obama lose followers in Twitter purge | DOJ weighs appeal on AT&T merger MORE (D-Mass.) argued as he explained that the committee had not heard from current Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn as to whether or not she would like to be renominated.

“There will be no one to pair the new Democratic nominee with,” Markey continued. “And it will create something that was ahistorical. We’re willing, obviously, to accept the next year, but with anticipation that almost as a guarantee we’re going to have a situation where there is a Democrat and so that’s all we’re asking for here.”

Committee Chairman Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE The real reason Scott Pruitt is gone: Putting a key voting bloc at risk Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers eye ban on Chinese surveillance cameras | DOJ walks back link between fraud case, OPM breach | GOP senators question Google on Gmail data | FCC under pressure to delay Sinclair merger review MORE (R-S.D.) pushed back against Democrats’ charge that approving Carr to two terms would break Committee precedence. Thune pointed to former Commissioner Gloria Tristani, who was appointed to two terms in the late '90s.

Nelson, however, disputed this, saying that while Tristanti might have had two terms, there’s “clearly there’s no precedent for a second term being this long, which you would throw the entire balance of the FCC, which it was intended, out of whack.”