Senate returns FCC to full strength

The Senate returned the Federal Communications Commission to full strength Wednesday night, confirming a bipartisan pair of nominees to full five-year terms.

Brendan Carr, a sitting Republican commissioner, was reconfirmed to a new term and Democratic nominee Geoffrey Starks was confirmed after a months-long delay in a voice vote Wednesday night, on the last day of the session.

Their confirmations had been delayed after Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization More Republicans call on Biden to designate Taliban as terrorist group Overnight Energy: Judge blocks permits for Alaska oil project MORE (R-Alaska) had placed a hold on Carr’s nomination, which had been paired with Stark’s, over a dispute with the FCC about the agency’s rural health care efforts. Sullivan agreed to release the hold last month after talks with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

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“The agreement to pair and confirm these nominees finally gives us a full FCC to decide important questions about spectrum management, the deployment of broadband to underserved communities, and building next-generation wireless networks,” 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.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee,  said in a statement. “I congratulate Geoffrey Starks and Brendan Carr on this Senate action allowing them to turn their attention toward work benefiting the public.”

Starks was nominated by President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE in June of last year. He had been serving as the assistant bureau chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau after leaving the Justice Department in 2015, where he was a senior counsel to Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole.

Carr, who was confirmed to a partial term in 2017, had previously been a legal adviser to Pai before briefly serving as the FCC’s general counsel.

“I am honored to serve another term, & I am particularly pleased that Starks - a talented public servant - will join my colleagues & I as we work to bring more broadband to more Americans,” Carr said in a tweet Wednesday night.

The FCC now has all five seats filled with three Republicans and two Democrats.