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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 NelsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Fearing defeat, Trump claims 'illegal' ballots The Hill's Morning Report - Biden inches closer to victory Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 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 approves two energy regulators, completing panel On The Money: Biden announces key members of economic team | GOP open to Yellen as Treasury secretary, opposed to budget pick | GAO: Labor Department 'improperly presented' jobless data Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary 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 CantwellTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Esper reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases | Enemy attacks in Afghanistan jump by 50 percent, watchdog says | Fort Hood soldier arrested, charged in Chelsea Cheatham killing 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 MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally 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 ThuneMurkowski: Trump should concede White House race Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate 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.”