Racing to wrap up business before leaving Washington for its August recess, the U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to confirm two nominees to the Federal Communications Commission. Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr were each approved by unanimous consent. It returns the FCC to five members.
It was a long wait for Rosenworcel, who was first tapped for a new term by President Obama in May 2015. When the Senate failed to act on her nomination Rosenworcel left the Commission in January only to be renominated by President Trump in June. Her new five-year term is retroactive to July 2015 and runs through 2020. Rosenworcel, 46, is a former Capitol Hill staffer who previously joined the FCC in 2011.
A deal between Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also cleared the way for Carr to be confirmed. Carr, who currently serves as the FCC’s general counsel, had been nominated by President Trump to finish out former agency chief Tom Wheeler’s term through June 2018, as well as serve his own five-year term which would run until June 2023. But Democrats objected to that extended term and under the bipartisan agreement Carr will now fill just the first portion of his nominated term which in practical terms would keep him at the FCC through at least Jan. 2019.
In a statement congratulating Rosenworcel on her return to the Commission and Carr on what amounts to a promotion, chairman Ajit Pai said each will be a valuable asset in the years to come. “Their experience at the FCC makes them particularly well suited to hit the ground running,” Pai said. “I’m pleased that the FCC will once again be at full strength and look forward to collaborating to close the digital divide, promote innovation, protect consumers and improve the agency’s operations.”
The Senate did not take up Pai’s pending renomination before breaking for its annual summer vacation. It’s not immediately clear what led to the delay or when a vote might be held but there doesn’t appear to be any serious challenge to him remaining at the helm of the agency. Pai’s previous term expired on June 30, 2016 and if approved his new five-year term would retroactively cover the past year that he’s been at the agency. Pai, 44, has served at the FCC since 2012.
All eyes now turn to Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Her term expired June 30 but Democrats in the Senate say she has not yet decided whether she wants to be renominated or leave the agency. Until that happens it’s unlikely congressional Democrats will begin putting together a list of potential successors they’d like President Trump to select from.