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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 NelsonGingrich says arming teachers only long-term solution to school shootings Florida students turn to activism in wake of shooting CNN invites Trump to town hall with parents, students of Florida high school 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 McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure 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 CantwellDemocrats request info on 'repeated environmental concerns' at Ohio pipeline Booker to stop accepting donations from corporate PACs Gillibrand vows to refuse donations from corporate PACs 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 MarkeyRegulators seek to remove barriers to electric grid storage Markey, Paul want to know if new rules are helping opioid treatment Oil spill tax on oil companies reinstated as part of budget deal 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 ThuneFlake to try to force vote on DACA stopgap plan Congress punts fight over Dreamers to March The 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework 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.”