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 NelsonDem asks airlines to cap airfares ahead of Hurricane Maria Trump encourages Rick Scott to run for Senate Overnight Regulation: House moves to block methane rule | Senators wrestle with allowing driverless trucks | EPA delays toxic waste rule 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 McConnellSenate passes 0B defense bill Overnight Health Care: New GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea 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 CantwellSenate energy bill is misguided gift to Trump’s dirty fossil fuel agenda Help states solve their housing problems with the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act Time to pass the U.S. OUTDOOR Act to support American jobs and consumers 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. Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Regulation: FTC launches probe into Equifax | Dems propose tougher data security rules | NYC aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions | EPA to reconsider Obama coal ash rule Overnight Cybersecurity: Kaspersky to testify before House | US sanctions Iranians over cyberattacks | Equifax reveals flaw that led to hack Dems propose data security bill after Equifax hack 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 ThuneAviation panel recommends Trump roll back safety rules Overnight Regulation: House moves to block methane rule | Senators wrestle with allowing driverless trucks | EPA delays toxic waste rule Overnight Tech: Senate looks at self-driving trucks | Facebook to keep ads off fake news | House panel calls Equifax CEO to testify 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.”