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President Donald Trump plans to nominate Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel for another term on the Federal Communications Commission.
Rosenworcel had to leave the commission at the end of last year when the Republican-led US Senate refused to reconfirm her for a second five-year term. The departure of Rosenworcel and former Chairman Tom Wheeler left the FCC with just three out of the typical five members, with Republicans holding a 2-1 majority. Republican senators didn’t want Rosenworcel to stay on the FCC at the time because it would have resulted in a 2-2 deadlock.
Commissioners are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. But no party can have more than a one-vote majority, so Trump has to nominate a Democrat and a Republican to fill the empty seats. When a president needs to nominate a commissioner from the opposing party, he takes suggestions from the opposing party’s leadership. Senate Democrats backed Rosenworcel for a return to the FCC, so Trump appears to be following longstanding tradition by nominating her.
The White House announced Trump’s intention to nominate Rosenworcel last night, numerous media outlets reported. No Republican nominee was announced, but Brendan Carr, the FCC General Counsel and aide to Chairman Ajit Pai, is reportedly the front-runner. The Senate would likely take up the nominations of Rosenworcel and a Republican at the same time in order to let Republicans maintain their one-vote majority.
Appointment “rights a wrong”
While Rosenworcel was criticized by two Democratic senators for opposing an FCC proposal that would have helped cable customers avoid renting TV set-top boxes, she received plenty of praise from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats.
“This appointment rights a wrong, because she deserved confirmation last year, and should have been sitting on the Commission all along,” Georgetown Law lecturer Andrew Schwartzman, an attorney who specializes in media and telecommunications policy, said in a statement provided to Ars. “I look forward to her zealous advocacy for universal broadband deployment, especially for younger Americans.”
Rosenworcel consistently advocates for closing the “homework gap” with policies that boost Internet access for low-income children. She was also part of a 3-2 Democratic majority that reclassified fixed and mobile ISPs as common carriers in order to enforce net neutrality rules and impose new online privacy restrictions (the latter of which were eliminated by Republicans after Trump’s inauguration). As such, broadband industry lobbyists and Rosenworcel were generally on opposite sides.
But as is custom, industry lobby groups today praised Rosenworcel and congratulated her on the nomination.
“During her first term as Commissioner, Jessica proved to be an outstanding public servant who championed policies that enable American consumers to benefit from the tremendous changes taking place in the communications and technology marketplace,” cable industry lobby group NCTA—The Internet & Television Association said. “We share Jessica’s passion for promoting policies that close the digital divide and ensure that all Americans, especially students, have access to the many benefits that the Internet offers.”
Besides Pai, the current FCC commissioners are Republican Michael O’Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn. Pai’s term technically expired in June 2016, but the FCC’s rules allow him to stay until the end of 2017. Trump has already re-nominated Pai for another term, and the Senate is expected to approve the nomination. Clyburn’s term expires June 30, but she could stay on the commission throughout 2018 even if the Senate doesn’t immediately reconfirm her.
Clyburn today said that Rosenworcel has been a leader in efforts to “modernize our 9-1-1 call centers, and a champion for freeing up more unlicensed spectrum. I look forward to working with her in the fight for an open Internet, affordable broadband and strong consumer privacy protections.”
Pai congratulated Rosenworcel, saying, “I look forward to working with her once again to advance the public interest.”