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.

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 NelsonEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by The American Petroleum Institute — Climate change turning US into coffee country Elon Musk mocks Biden for ignoring his company's historic space flight How will Biden's Afghanistan debacle impact NASA's Artemis return to the moon? 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 McConnellWe don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble House passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome 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 CantwellLooking to the past to secure America's clean energy future Democrats demand more action from feds on unruly airline passengers Delta variant's spread hampers Labor Day air travel, industry recovery 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 MarkeyWarren, Bush offer bill to give HHS power to impose eviction moratorium Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal Six Democrats blast Energy Department's uranium reserve pitch 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 ThuneSchumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B GOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff 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.”