OVERNIGHT TECH: Grassley might not lift FCC hold even after House investigation

THE LEDE: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Hill on Tuesday he might not lift his hold on President Obama’s two nominees to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) even if he receives documents as part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s probe over wireless start-up LightSquared.

Grassley said whether he lifts his hold will depend on whether he still has more questions for the FCC after the House’s investigation.

{mosads}”I’m not going to let [the nominees] go until we get the information that we’re entitled to from the FCC,” Grassley said. “It depends upon whether I have more questions as a result of looking at [the documents from the House’s investigation]. If I don’t have any more questions, then it might be a reason to let them go.”

Although the FCC has now moved to block the launch of LightSquared’s 4G network over concerns that it would interfere with GPS devices, Grassley questions why the FCC allowed the company to get as far as it did in the regulatory process.

He has promised to block the nominees, Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel, until he receives the FCC’s internal documents related to its review of the company.

The FCC has refused to hand over the information to Grassley, arguing that agencies usually only respond to inquiries from lawmakers who sit on committees that oversee them. Grassley is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but he does not serve on any committees with jurisdiction over the FCC.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which does have jurisdiction over the FCC, announced last month they would probe the agency’s handling of LightSquared.

FCC officials have said they will cooperate with the House investigation. 

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said he plans to share the documents he receives from the FCC with Grassley.

“It’s still very irritating to me that I have to go to a majority in the House to get something that every single senator ought to be entitled to under our Constitution,” Grassley said on Tuesday.

The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously recommended the nominees in December. Because of Grassley’s hold, the five-seat FCC has been operating with only three members since the beginning of the year.

Sen. Graham undecided on cybersecurity legislation: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the “three amigos,” along with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), told The Hill on Tuesday that he hasn’t decided which friend he will side with in the debate over cybersecurity legislation. 

“You know old friends have rifts,” Graham said. “I have no idea who’s right. I don’t know enough about it.”

Lieberman, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), is pushing a cybersecurity bill that would empower the Homeland Security Department to set security standards for computer systems deemed critical to national security, such as the systems that control electrical grids or dams.

But McCain has argued that Lieberman’s bill would impose burdensome regulations on businesses. McCain has introduced his own alternative proposal, the Secure IT Act, which would encourage companies to voluntarily share information about cyberthreats and toughen penalties for cybercrimes.

Graham said a cybersecurity bill is one of the few “big accomplishments” that Congress could achieve this year.

“There’s a lot of bipartisan support that we need to do something,” Graham said, adding that he plans to look closely at both competing proposals. 

“They’re the best of friends who sometimes disagree,” Graham said. “And when they disagree it’s a real doozy.” 

For more on the struggle between McCain and Lieberman on cybersecurity, see Wednesday’s print edition of The Hill.


Al Gore said on Tuesday that America’s democracy “has been hacked,” and advocated for the use of digital tools to improve the government.

LightSquared has hired prominent conservative lawyers Ted Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general, and Eugene Scalia, a son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, as it tries to save its multibillion-dollar plan to build a nationwide 4G wireless network, the company confirmed Tuesday.

In a memo released Monday, the House Ethics Committee informed lawmakers that they can include a link from their campaign website to their official congressional site.

TechAmerica, an influential trade group that represents technology companies including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple, named Shawn Osborne as its new president and CEO on Tuesday.

Tags Al Gore Chuck Grassley John McCain Lindsey Graham Susan Collins

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