Members of the Senate Commerce Committee this week had a chance to get answers on the record from two nominees to be Commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Senators took the opportunity to quiz nominees Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai on numerous issues of concern, including spectrum allocation and the status of FCC authority over the Internet. Notably, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) ensured that both nominees were committed to the final repeal of the Fairness Doctrine. In addition, Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Communications, Technology, and Internet Subcommittee, emphasized the importance of these nominations by characterizing FCC Commissioners as “protectors of our democracy,” given their governance in areas of First Amendment freedoms.
In October, President Obama nominated Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai to fill the seats of Commissioner Michael Copps, whose tenure ends this year, and former Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, who resigned this summer to join Comcast. Rosenworcel, currently a senior staffer for Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), has served in a number of Senior Counsel positions in Congress and at the FCC, including the role of Senior Legal Advisor to Commissioner Copps. Pai, too, has held Senior Counsel positions at the FCC, Department of Justice, and on Capitol Hill, including Chief Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Constitution Subcommittee under former Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS).
While the nominees themselves have been received well thus far by Members of both parties, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has threatened to block their confirmation until FCC Chairman Genachowski provides to him requested documents about the FCC’s waiver for LightSquared to advance a terrestrial 4G network. Senator Grassley noted, “The FCC hasn’t made any move to provide the information. As a result, my intention to place a hold on the FCC nominees, should they reach the floor, stands…. An agency with control over a major piece of the economy can’t be allowed to operate as a closed shop.”