The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled the FCC nomination hearing for Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel for Nov. 30 at 2:30 p.m.
They are the nominees to fill the Republican FCC commissioner seat of Meredith Attwell Baker and soon-to-be vacant seat of Democrat Michael Copps, who must exit by year's end.
The committee had signaled it wanted to move on the nominations ASAP. They are considered noncontroversial and are expected to be approved by the committee. But even they are it does not mean that the FCC will necessarily have its full complement of five commissioners by Copps' exit. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) signaled in a statement to the president read into the record earlier in November that he would put a hold on both nominations, thereby blocking a full Senate vote, until and unless the FCC offers up more info on its LightSquared waiver.
Grassley has complained that the FCC ignored document requests about the commission's communications with LightSquared and its backers and with the White House.
The FCC rejected a Grassley request for documents, saying that it only responds to requests from committee chairs.
The FCC's conditional waiver for the LightSquared wholesale 4G wireless broadband network service is on hold due to issues about interference with GPS. The FCC is conducting more testing, while LightSquared says it has a fix for the problem, which it says stems from sensitive GPS receivers, and is willing to pay for it.
In his statement on blocking the nominations, Grassley said:
"I, Senator Chuck Grassley, intend to object to proceeding to the nomination of Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai to be commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission for the following reason. I will object to proceeding to the nomination because the FCC continues to stonewall a document request I submitted to the FCC over six months ago on April 27, 2011, regarding their actions related to LightSquared and Harbinger Capital. Since then, I have repeated my request to the FCC through letters I sent on July 5th and September 8th and the FCC continues to deny my request for documents."
According to a source close to Sen. Grassley, that blocking threat remains.
The hold would not go into effect until after the committee vote -- which will probably not come the same day as the hearing -- and the nominations came to the Senate floor. In the meantime, according to the source, Sen. Grassley met with staffers of Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) earlier in the week to talk about how the chairman might be able to help persuade the FCC to respond to Grassley's information request.
Rosenworcel is currently senior counsel for the Commerce Committee's communications subcommittee and a top communications policy advisor to Rockefeller.
Pai, since last spring, has been a Partner at Jenner & Block LLP. Before that he was in the Office of the General Counsel at the FCC, where he was deputy general counsel, associate general counsel and special advisor to the general counsel.
Rosenworcel is Rockefeller's choice, while Pai is said to be the pick of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Rockefeller's office had no comment on the meeting, but he is friends with Grassley and, in a statement, indicated he was willing to work to get the nominations to the floor.
"I am pleased to announce this important step in the confirmation process," he said in the statement. "These are exceptional nominees who will be effective advocates at the FCC. As we consider these nominations, I remain committed to working with my colleagues to address any concerns and move these nominations to a full Senate confirmation as expeditiously as possible."