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Trump renominates FCC chairman

Trump renominates FCC chairman
© Greg Nash

President Trump has renominated Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to a new five-year term, a White House spokesman told The Hill.

The White House submitted the necessary paperwork on Tuesday, the source said, the day after Pai met with the president.

“I am deeply honored to have been nominated by President Trump to serve a second term on the Federal Communications Commission," Pai said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. 

"If I am fortunate to be confirmed by the Senate, I will continue to work with my colleagues to connect all Americans with digital opportunity, foster innovation, protect consumers, promote public safety, and make the FCC more open and transparent to the American people.”

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The move is not entirely surprising, as Trump had elevated the GOP regulator to the FCC's top spot less than two months ago. But Trump also needs to nominate another Republican and an opposition member to the commission, which currently only has three of its five seats filled.

Former President Obama nominated former FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to a new term in the last days of his administration. Her term had expired after her renomination died in the Senate.

Last week, Trump withdrew Rosenworcel's nomination from the Senate, but Democrats are still sticking by her.

“We are still waiting for the renomination of Commissioner Rosenworcel, and that will determine how I and other Democrats on the committee are likely to handle all nominations including Chairman Pai’s,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce technology subcommittee, said in a statement to The Hill.

The White House has not yet announced the Pai renomination, but industry groups are already celebrating the move as word leaked out Tuesday.

“In just a few short months, Chairman Pai has embarked on a thoughtful, pro-consumer agenda that focuses on promoting Internet freedom and expanding the benefits of broadband to all Americans," Michael Powell, head of the telecom lobbying group NCTA and a former GOP FCC chairman, said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Pai and his colleagues over the coming years.”

Since being tapped to chair the FCC in late January, Pai has moved quickly to push a deregulatory agenda and undo several of his Democratic predecessor’s actions.

Democrats and consumer advocates have blasted him for removing nine broadband providers from a program that subsidizes internet access for low-income households, suspending an investigation into free data services that critics say violate net neutrality and pushed through a stay of an impending rule that would have required internet service providers to beef up consumer data security.

Pai is also believed to be exploring ways to undo the FCC’s landmark 2015 net neutrality rules, which prohibit service providers from discriminating against web traffic to certain sites. Lawmakers of both parties have also voiced a willingness to work towards a legislative compromise on net neutrality.

Pai and the two other FCC commissioners will appear before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday for an oversight hearing.

—Updated at 5:09 p.m.