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Senate Commerce Moves Forward on FCC Nominations Despite Democratic Opposition

WASHINGTON — The Senate Commerce Committee moved the nominations of Ajit Pai, Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr to new FCC terms, despite Democrats’ objections.

It’s still unclear when their nominations will reach the Senate floor for confirmation.

President Donald Trump nominated Pai, the current FCC chairman, to a new five-year term earlier this year, as his tenure was set to expire at the end of 2017. Some Democrats voted against the nomination, as Pai has put forward a proposal to rollback the agency’s authority to impose net neutrality rules.

Rosenworcel, a Democrat, also was nominated by Trump. She would be returning to the commission after her tenure ended last year. President Barack Obama had renominated her for a new term in 2015, but it never made it to the floor.

Carr, currently general counsel to the FCC, was nominated to fill the remainder of a term that expires next year, and for another five-year term.

While Democrats on the Commerce Committee voted for Carr to fill that vacancy until next year, they opposed giving him another term after that.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said that Democrats are concerned about if Carr was given another term, his tenure would run for 6 1/2 years. A concern is that another vacancy would open up on the FCC, to be filled by a Democrat, and that it would get held up. That would leave the FCC with a 3-1 split between Republicans and Democrats.

But Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Commerce Committee, said that there is precedent for an FCC nominee being confirmed for the remainder of one term and another at the same time. He pointed to Gloria Tristan, nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1997.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking member of the Commerce Committee, said that Republican and Democratic Senate leadership were working on a package of nominations that would limit to Carr to the partial term.

“There might be precedent, but clearly there is no precedent for a second term being this long, in which you would throw the entire balance of the FCC out of whack,” Nelson said.

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