Senate confirms FCC picks who were held up over LightSquared

The Senate on Monday approved the nominations of Republican Ajit Pai and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to serve on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The two nominees were approved by unanimous consent.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) held up the nominations for roughly four months in an attempt to force the FCC to hand over internal documents related to its review of LightSquared, a politically connected start-up that had planned to build a nationwide 4G network.

Although the FCC moved to block the network earlier this year over concerns that it would interfere with GPS devices, Grassley questioned why the FCC allowed the firm to get as far as it did in the regulatory process. He demanded to see FCC documents to determine whether LightSquared benefited from favoritism.

Grassley agreed to lift his hold when Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) provided him with documents they had received from the FCC.

{mosads}Pai is a former FCC attorney who served on the staff of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) when he was a senator. Rosenworcel served for many years as the communications counsel for the Senate Commerce Committee, now led by Rockefeller. She also worked for former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (D).

Pai told The Hill he is “honored” to take his place at the FCC.

“I want to thank President Obama for nominating me and Sen. [Mitch] McConnell [(R-Ky.)] for his support throughout this process,” Pai said. “I am grateful to Chairman Rockefeller, ranking member [Kay Bailey] Hutchison [(R-Texas)], and the other members of the Commerce Committee for the many courtesies they extended to me in recent months.” 

Brownback told The Hill that he wanted to “offer his congratulations” to Pai for the “well-deserved opportunity.” 

“[He] is talented and humble, a rare combination in Washington. It is wonderful to see a kid who grew up in Parsons, Kansas, do so well for himself,” Brownback said.

Former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein told The Hill that during Pai’s tenure at the FCC he “found him to be unfailingly professional, knowledgeable, and effective.” 

Adelstein, who now heads the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utility Service, said “he has the right background, experience and temperament to be an outstanding Commissioner.” 

Rockefeller said he is “elated” that the nearly seven-month confirmation process has ended, though he’ll miss Rosenworcel on his committee. 

“She will bring her meticulous and professional mindset that we have enjoyed here at the Commerce Committee to the FCC as an effective and sharp Commissioner. I am going to miss her terribly on the Commerce Committee,” he said in a statement.

And FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski also had praise for both nominees, saying in a statement that President Obama’s picks for his two newest colleagues is “outstanding choice.” “I look forward to working with them,” he said.

Rosenworcel’s one-time boss at the FCC, former acting chairman and commissioner Michael Copps (D) also told The Hill he was “pleased” that the Senate had confirmed “two especially well-qualified individuals.” 

Copps said Rosenworcel, who served as his senior legal advisor, “brings a breadth and depth of telecom knowledge” he called “remarkable and, perhaps, unparalleled.”

— This story was last updated at 5:54 p.m.

Tags Chuck Grassley Jay Rockefeller
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